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Well, the Terrible Twenty is finally behind us and the Jays are off to Tropicana Field -- among the more bizarre venues in sports, and a stadium that has been surprisingly unkind to the Jays since the spectacularly unsuccessful Tampa Bay franchise joined the American League.

The Rays' Achilles heel has been, without question, starting pitching. Tampa starters are conceding home runs, giving up base hits, issuing walks and generally failing to eat innings. While some of us here at Batter's Box -- yours truly definitely included -- have bemoaned the Jays' wildly risk-averse offensive strategy against the stellar staffs of Minnesota, New York and Boston, this appears to be a series where patience at the plate should lead to a boatload of runs in the Bay. Now, if only the Jays could concentrate in the field and get some relief from the bullpen.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Finally, the Terrible Twenty concludes. The Jays would do well, really well, to come out of Fenway with a split. Boston's hot hitters are staying hot, and their cold hitters are getting warmer. Maybe someone can step up with an Ernie Whitt/Junior Felix/Joe Carter-type big Fenway performance.

I'm still not crazy about the Beantown bullpen, in part because I'm not comfortable with the one-bad-outing-and-you're-demoted strategy, at least from a psychological perspective. Now, if a reliever has several Ramiro Mendoza outings in a row, then by all means I support handing him a mop. Even the bullpen, though, is showing glimmers of hope (read on below), thanks to a couple of unlikely saviours. The Red Sox are looking dangerous...

On to the Advance Scout!
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Scouting the Yankees, on one level, is pretty easy: "They're the freakin' Yankees."

The Yankees can be hit hard, and can be shut down, but it's hard to do both on any given night, and they do a more effective job capitalizing on opponents' mistakes than any other team of our generation. What's worse, navel-gazing Yankee fans (whose I-only-watch-the-Yankees attitude was overwhelmingly responsible for the poor World Series ratings last year) have been buoyed by the team's hot start, thereby rendering them less sullen and depressed when I taunt them with a Rally Monkey.

This year, Hideki Matsui makes New York even more dangerous offensively, and their starting pitching has been magnificent -- although their bullpen does show signs of weakness, at least while not healthy. Prior to the Matsui and Floyd signings, I thought it was absolutely stunning that the Yankees and Mets could combine to spend nearly $250 million (all figures U.S., of course) and have one above-average outfielder combined: Bernie Williams.

In any event, I'll be in the Bronx tomorrow night for Doc-Mussina. First base, about thirty rows back -- on the off-chance the Jays do anything worthy of fan reaction, they might include us in the "token fans of the visiting team shot." Should be a great game...

On to the Advance Scout!
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Well, I know I should be optimistic. But the Twins always seem to play their best ball at SkyDome, no matter how good (or bad) they happen to be at any given time. I always found Tom Kelly clubs, like Sparky Anderson clubs, to be reliably tough to beat on a day-to-day basis.

I remember the Jays earning a hard-fought split in the '91 ALCS in Minneapolis...only to have Puckett, Pagliarulo & Co. dispatch of the Jays in three straight road victories. The Twins are young, and their confidence may be shaky given their recent struggles, but I suspect that they've got a good clubhouse thing going. Last season, I saw the Twins play in both Toronto and Chicago, and they had about the most enthusiastic dugout celebrations I've ever seen in early-season games. And they can still flash the leather, although even Torii Hunter committed a costly error at Yankee Stadium yesterday.

The Advance Scout says: Try and keep the Twinkies fishing at the plate. They've been pressing and impatient, almost to a man, during this slump. Let's see if Lidle, Pete and Lurch can expand the strike zone a little bit and get some easy outs.

On to the Advance Scout!
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The Terrible Twenty continue for the Jays, as the Beantowners arrive fresh off a 5-2 start to the season against the past, present and future fourth- and fifth-place clubs in the AL East. Starting pitching has been generally solid for the Bosox, but the now-infamous "Closer-By-Committee" is providing yet another example of the often-unavoidable clash between baseball strategic theory and the harsh reality of inadequate personnel.

Grady Little isn't only experimenting with his relief corps; Boston has been using players not generally thought of as versatile in versatile ways (see batting orders below). Doesn't look like much of a defence to me, and the Jays might be able to put some pressure on the suspect D, particularly on turf. And we're talking a man's turf here, not that sissy good-for-you stuff in St. Petersburg.

Having said that, the Red Sox are absolutely tearing the cover off the ball at the plate, and turf might enhance their awesome offence even further. By sacrificing defensive expertise and grace, the Red Sox can trot out an exceptionally powerful, patient and explosive offence. Let's see if the Jays redeem themselves for the Yankee fiasco of a series in front of the home crowd. Mark "Lurch" Hendrickson, Tanyon and Doc will be the most important three players of the series on either team.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Welcome to the first installment of Advance Scout.

I figure we here at BB can look up stats -- especially the zombies among us -- and pitching probables on our own. My job will be to provide anecdotal reports, combined with probable batting orders and bullpen usages. Enjoy the weekend series, though the Twins aren't looking like a team ready to cut the Jays any breaks after the Yankees debacle this week.

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