Spring slate pits Jays against champs

Spring slate pits Jays against champs

TORONTO -- With a fresh layer of snow covering Toronto, it's the perfect time for Blue Jays fans to begin thinking about the warm Florida sun and Spring Training. On Monday, the team made that a little easier by releasing its upcoming spring schedule.

From the end February and into early April, the Jays will have a slate of 33 games in Grapefruit League play and a pair of exhibition games as a tuneup for Opening Day in Toronto. Included are a pair of games against Team Canada and Team USA in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

The Blue Jays open their Spring Training schedule at home at Dunedin Stadium on Feb 25, when the rival Yankees come calling. It's one of two trips to Dunedin for New York, which won't return to Toronto's spring home again until March 30. The Jays' first spring game on the road will be in nearby Clearwater, where they'll take on the World Series champion Phillies.

Toronto will be at home for eight of its first 10 Grapefruit League games, including the pair of games against Classic participants. On March 3 and 4, respectively, the Blue Jays will host Team Canada and Team USA in Dunedin. Those games will count as Grapefruit League contests for Toronto.

On March 1, the Jays will make their first of two treks to Port Charlotte, which is the new spring home of the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays. Toronto will host Tampa Bay, which claimed the AL East crown in 2008, for the first time this spring on March 13 in Dunedin.

The Phillies, who defeated the Rays in five games in the World Series, will head to Dunedin to take on the Blue Jays on March 2. Toronto's final home game of the spring will be on April 1, when the team hosts the Nationals. On April 2, the Jays will head to Lakeland to take on the Tigers for their last Grapefruit League tilt.

On April 6, the Blue Jays open the 2009 regular season at Rogers Centre with the first contest of a four-game series against the Tigers. Prior to departing Florida, though, the Jays will play the Marlins in a pair of exhibition games to be held on April 3 and 4 in Jupiter.

All of Toronto's spring games are scheduled to begin at 1:05 p.m. ET with the exception of four contests. The Jays will have night games against the Phillies at 7:05 p.m. ET on March 6 in Dunedin, against the Yankees at 7:15 p.m. on March 19, against the Pirates at 7:05 p.m. on March 27 in Bradenton, and against the Phillies at 7:05 on March 31 in Clearwater.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.