Opposite dugout: Can Blue Jays compensate for departure of big bat?

blue-jays-logo.jpgManager: John Gibbons (10th season)

Record: 89-73 (tied for second in AL East in 2016)

Last 10 games: Season opener

Who to watch: 3B Josh Donaldson (.284/.404/.549 with 37 HR, 99 RBIs), SS Troy Tulowitzki (24 HR, 79 RBIs), RF José Bautista (22 HR, 69 RBIs), DH Kendrys Morales (30 HR, 93 RBIs), LHP J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.18 ERA), RHP Roberto Osuna (36 saves, 2.68 ERA)

Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (10-9 in 2016)

Pitching probables:

April 3: RHP Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (9-12, 3.61 ERA), 3:05 p.m., MASN2
April 5: LHP J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (10-6, 4:02 ERA), 7:05 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Blue Jays:

The Orioles have a well-earned reputation as sluggers after leading the American League in home runs last year, though the Blue Jays weren’t far behind with 221 longballs to the O’s 253. But the version of the Blue Jays that opens the 2017 season at Camden Yards against the Orioles today isn’t the same one offensively that ended the Birds’ season in the AL Wild Card game at Rogers Centre in Toronto in October.

Toronto still possesses plenty of lumber, but will need to compensate for the departure of first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who took his team-leading 42 homers and 127 RBIs to Cleveland as a free agent. Also gone are right fielder Michael Saunders’ 24 homers, though most of that damage came in the second half before he bolted to Philadelphia as a free agent. But if the Blue Jays can get a representative season from third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit .284 with 37 homers and 99 RBIs, and incoming DH Kendrys Morales, who slugged 30 homers and drove in 93 runs for the Royals before signing in Toronto as a free agent, they should be OK. But there are questions. Can right fielders José Bautista rebound from a poor season marred by injuries that limited his free agent opportunities? Can second baseman Devon Travis stay healthy enough to flash his ample speed? Can shortstop Troy Tulowitzki replicate his 24-homer, 79-RBI campaign from a year ago? And who plays left field, because none of the folks in competition really set the world on fire?

In addition to ample offense, the Blue Jays posses a pretty impressive starting five. Right-hander Marco Estrada, who draws the starting assignment in Monday’s season opener, won only nine games last year but did have 18 quality starts. He was 2-0 in four starts against the Orioles last season, and is 4-1 with a 3.22 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) versus Baltimore in his career. One Oriole who probably can’t wait to face Estrada is new catcher Welington Castillo, who is 7-for-23 lifetime against him with four home runs. Wednesday starter J.A. Happ had never won more than 11 games in a season before going 20-4 in 2016, and he went 2-0 in three games against Baltimore last season. But in five lifetime starts at Camden Yards, he’s only 1-1 with a 4.10 ERA. Happ has held current Orioles to a .212/.268/.416 slash line.

If the Blue Jays get to the ninth inning with a lead, righty Roberto Osuna would normally get the call. Osuna saved 36 games in 42 chances last year, posting a 2.68 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. But he was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, leaving veteran Jason Grilli as the fill-in closer

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