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SF@TOR: Dickey strikes out 10 over six strong innings

When the Rays and Blue Jays meet Monday at Rogers Centre, it will be a matchup of experience vs. youth.

Thanks to their game being postponed Sunday against the Yankees, the Blue Jays will send their 38-year-old ace, R.A. Dickey, to the mound against 23-year-old Jake Odorizzi.

The knuckleballer will be facing Tampa Bay for the second time in 12 days.

"I faced Tampa two starts ago, so they're pretty fresh in my mind and I have some notes that I'll reflect on," Dickey said. "I pretty much know what I need to do to be successful."

Against the Rays on May 9, Dickey turned in a quality start, pitching six innings, allowing two earned runs with five walks and five strikeouts. He ended up with a no-decision, however, when Tampa Bay came back, overcoming an early deficit and winning in extra innings.

In his most recent outing vs. the Giants, the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner found his swing-and-miss stuff, striking out a season-high 10.

"Early on, that knuckleball was alive," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He took advantage of the fact that we gave him some cushion there, and he got some big strikeouts late in the game."

Part of the reason for the high strikeout total may be because Dickey's lingering neck and back injury from earlier in the season continues to clear up.

"I can't imagine it hurting," Dickey said. "I feel like that's become more of a non-issue going forward, so with an extra day off, it can only improve it. But it's hard for a starter because you get into the game mode, it's hard to get out of it, and you want to pitch."

The Rays' Odorizzi has big shoes to fill, as he takes David Price's spot in the rotation.

The young righty came to the Rays in the Dec. 9 trade that sent James Shields, Wade Davis and Elliot Johnson to the Royals, and Odorizzi will be making his first start for his new team.

While with Triple-A Durham, Odorizzi was 4-0 with a 3.83 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings through eight starts.

"He's not intimidated by all this stuff," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Get him out there. Start him. ... Hopefully, he gets at least five or six innings in there."

"Regardless of the stuff I have that day, I want to keep my team in the game," Odorizzi said. "Last start [with Durham], I was just up a little bit. We had a stiff breeze in Rochester, [N.Y.], for three games. We gave up a few home runs. Before that I was just mixing well, working my fastball. Everything works off that, obviously, but [I was] doing a good job of keeping the ball down and keeping my team in the game."

Rays: Joyce not adjusting approach against the shift
On Saturday in Baltimore, Rays outfielder Matt Joyce was seeing a heavy shift on the right side of the infield.

Admittedly, the 28-year-old was a little concerned with the defensive approach by the Orioles.

"The shift is tough," Joyce said, who went 1-for-4 with a home run in the series finale Sunday. "After the first at-bat, I came in and told Joe I'm probably going to try and hit the ball to left field. And he said, 'No, just be you. Stay who you are. Keep doing what you're doing and you'll find the holes.'"

When Saturday's game came to a close, Joyce finished with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs in five at-bats, including driving in the tying and go-ahead runs against Orioles closer Jim Johnson in the Rays' 10-6 comeback victory.

"That's what I talk about all the time. I just want him to be himself," Maddon said. "That's what we try to do to other teams. Don't let them do that to us."

"I always talk to our guys about dictating to the other side. I don't want them to dictate to us. So just be yourself. Go up there and swing the bat like you can and it's all going to come back to you."

Blue Jays: Johnson on the mend
Toronto right-hander Josh Johnson will make his first rehab start for Class A Dunedin on Monday.

The 6-foot-7 29-year-old has been out of action since April 21 because of soreness in his right triceps muscle.

Toronto's No. 3 starter likely will be out another three weeks as he begins the slow process of building up arm strength and endurance in preparation for a return to the Major Leagues.

"If he comes out of that Monday [start] feeling good, that will be a good sign," Gibbons said. "But I think it will be at least three [rehab starts]."

"It's like Spring Training almost all over again. Not quite as bad."

Worth noting
The Rays have had five consecutive winning seasons vs. Toronto, beginning in 2008. During that stretch, they have the best record in baseball against the Blue Jays at 63-31 (.670), and an all-time record of 138-123 (.529), marking their second best vs. an American League opponent. Tampa Bay has gone 6-3 at Rogers Centre in three of the last four years, with Monday being the first game of the year between these two teams in Toronto.

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