Blue Jays vs. Twins series preview: Berrios' old team battling injuries, COVID

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Jose Berrios (17) throws the ball during first inning MLB baseball action against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto on Monday, April 25, 2022. (Christopher Katsarov/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Toronto Blue Jays carry an eight-game win streak into a series against another struggling opponent from the AL Central -- the division-leading Minnesota Twins.

Here’s a look at the three-game series this weekend at Rogers Centre.

Probable pitchers

Friday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE): Minnesota RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (season debut) vs. Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (2-1, 3.48 ERA)

Saturday, 3:07 p.m. ET / 12:07 p.m. PT (Sportsnet): Minnesota RHP Dylan Bundy (3-2, 4.76 ERA) vs. Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (3-2, 5.62 ERA)

Sunday, 1:37 p.m. ET / 10:37 a.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE): Minnesota LHP Devin Smeltzer (2-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Toronto RHP Kevin Gausman (5-3, 2.51 ERA)

Latest on the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays (30-20) made it two sweeps in a row (their first two of the season) with an 8-3 victory over the visiting Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

Toronto, with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on a rest day and George Springer sidelined with a non-COVID illness, showcased its depth. Raimel Tapia scored twice and Cavan Biggio came through with an important RBI double in the eighth after the White Sox had trimmed the deficit to 4-3.

Teoscar Hernandez belted his first homer since May 14 and Alek Manoah pitched another gem, going 7.2 innings while giving up three runs as Toronto moved a half-game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the race for second in the AL East.

However, things weren’t perfect for the Blue Jays as starter Hyun Jin Ryu returned to the IL (15-day) for the second time this year with forearm inflammation. Ross Stripling will fill in for him next week in Kansas City.

Latest on the Twins

While it’s been a good start to the season for the Twins (30-23), the tide has turned recently. Minnesota lost four games of a five-game series in Detroit against the lowly Tigers – capped by a 3-2 defeat on Thursday.

Daz Cameron’s two-run home run in the eighth turned a Tigers deficit into a lead that would hold up.

The two runs Thursday marked the only times Minnesota crossed home plate in the past three games.

Fortunately for the Twins, the Blue Jays helped their cause by putting the brooms to the White Sox. Minnesota is 4.5 games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Guardians and five up on Chicago heading into the weekend.

Depleted roster

Like the White Sox, the Twins come to Toronto shorthanded.

Top starter Sonny Gray was slated to start Friday’s series opener, but went on the 15-day IL on Thursday with a right pectoral strain.

Gonzalez, who signed a minor-league contract with the team this off-season, will make his first start with the Twins in Gray’s place. He is 9-23 with a 5.64 ERA in his major-league career with Texas and Colorado.

Another starter, Joe Ryan, is on the COVID-19 injured list along with top shortstop Carlos Correa -- and to make matters worse, the backup shortstop, Royce Lewis (knee), is hurt.

Meanwhile, Do-Yyoung Park of MLB.com reports four Twins will be on the COVID restricted list and not make the trip to Toronto -- outfielder Max Kepler and relievers Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan and Trevor Megill.

In better news for the Twins, manager Rocco Baldelli said outfielder Gilberto Celestino (.324 average) will meet the Twins on Friday in Toronto after being on the COVID list.

He said it

"We're pretty banged up, COVID and physically, with different ailments. Even guys that are on the field, we're pretty banged up. … Just understanding that it's a long season and teams go through ebbs and flows, that's just how it is."

-- Twins starter Chris Archer to the Star Tribune after Thursday’s loss.

Berrios vs. old team

Blue Jays opening-day starter Jose Berrios will look to get his season back on track on Saturday against the team that drafted him 32nd overall in 2012.

Traded to Toronto by Minnesota last July, Berrios was 1-1 (12.2 innings, six runs, 16 strikeouts, three walks) in two September starts against the Twins in 2021.

Berrios is coming off a bad outing – just 2.1 innings while giving up six runs against the Los Angeles Angels last Sunday.

Busy schedules

The Twins are in a stretch of 18 games in 17 days.

Toronto is in the midst of 40 in 41 days – even busier than a 30-in-31 stretch earlier this year.

Managers reunite

Baldelli and Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo both were on Kevin Cash’s staff in Tampa Bay before getting their respective jobs in 2019. The three remain close.

Up next

The Blue Jays continue a stretch of four consecutive series against AL Central teams with three games in each of Kansas City and Detroit next week. The Tigers and Royals have the two worst records in the division.

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