The Blue Jays will turn to No. 5 starter J.A. Happ against Kansas City on Friday in hopes he can turn around a string of poor starts to begin the season.
Toronto will be looking for a similar start to Happ's 2013 debut where the Blue Jays left-hander fired 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox on April 6, walking three and striking out six.
Happ's success was the result of turning to his changeup more frequently, something he got away from the last couple of years.
"I think that's going to be a big pitch for me," said Happ after his last start. "I had a couple of good ones today, trying to keep them off-balance. I think it makes the fastball that much better.
They'll need Happ to continue his success as the Blue Jays' starting pitching has been poor recently. In the team's last four games the starters have combined to allowed 25 runs (23 earned) in only 14 innings -- good for a 14.79 ERA.
He'll take the mound for his second start on Friday night in his first career appearance at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals are coming off their first series sweep of the season and have played very well to open the season, finding a way to win both low and high-scoring games.
Taking the mound for Kansas City is Luis Mendoza, who beat out Bruce Chen for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring to become the only holdover, along with Jeremy Guthrie, from last year's Royals rotation. Mendoza, a right-hander, held the Phillies to two hits and one run through six innings in his first start, and will be looking for much of the same against Toronto.
Mendoza wasn't awarded the win after Kansas City blew a 3-1 lead, but it was a solid performance for the right-hander, who is 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA through 22 1/3 career innings against Toronto. Mendoza lost in his last matchup with the Blue Jays -- giving up three earned runs with nine hits, while also striking out a career-high nine hitters in the process.
The trip to Kansas City marks a reunion of sorts for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, who spent three seasons with the Royals as the team's bench coach.
"I loved my three years over there, I got close to a lot of the players. When I was there, you could see they were on the verge of something really good," Gibbons said.
Early this season it appears they are showing the potential that Gibbons spoke of. The Royals have won five of their last six games and are coming off a sweep of the Twins.
"They put together a great bullpen, they got some of the better younger players in baseball. I think probably the best defensive team in the league. They also have good team speed. You get those young guys, too, they get after you," Gibbons said.
"I expect them to be in this thing until the very end themselves."
Royals: Hosmer confident in defense
After 64 2/3 flawless innings, the Royals' first error came on Tuesday, as third baseman Mike Moustakas booted Darin Mastroianni's hopper. The seven-game errorless streak was the first in franchise history, and first baseman Eric Hosmer and skipper Ned Yost say their defense will be a team strong point moving forward.
"It's probably the best left side in baseball," Hosmer said. "I think the biggest difference is how strong the throwing arms are. Moose and Esky [shortstop Alcides Escobar], with their range, can make plays in the hole but with that extra step in the hole, they have the arm strength that the average guy doesn't have. That's where they gain ground on the other guys -- their arm strength. It's unreal."
Blue Jays: Reyes off to red-hot start
The Blue Jays have struggled of late, but the same can't be said for All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, who is hitting .412 with 14 hits.
"I feel good at the plate right now," Reyes said. "Just seeing the ball good, making a good swing on the ball. I go up there looking for a pitch, and if I get it, I'm going to put a good swing on the ball.
"But that doesn't mean anything, because we know we're not playing the way we're supposed to play -- so I feel like I haven't done anything, because it's all about winning."
• Jose Bautista played the whole series against the Tigers, after suffering an ankle sprain that caused him to miss the entirety of the Boston series, but struggled a little at the plate in the cold weather going 2-for-10.
• The Blue Jays have yet to put back-to-back games without an error this season, and have struggled defensively in 2013 with nine errors in nine games to lead the league.
The Blue Jays have struggled on the mound this season, particularly the starters. The Blue Jays own the second worst ERA mark in the league, behind only the Phillies, with a 7.59 ERA through nine games.
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.