The wait is almost over.
After six months of anticipation, the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays are ready to take to the field, as the team plays its home opener against the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre.
This season begins with an air of excitement that has not been felt for Jays fans since the early 1990s when the team was a perennial playoff contender.
Most of the excitement is due to general manager Alex Anthopoulos' busy off-season that saw him land a group of former All-Stars through a series of shrewd and unexpected transactions.
One of those acquisitions - reigning National League Cy Young Award-winner R.A. Dickey – will take to the mound for the opener, becoming the first knuckleballer to ever start for the Jays on Opening Day.
The Indians will counter with Justin Masterson, who went 11-15 in 2012.
After a career-best 20-6 record, 233.2 innings pitched, 2.73 earned-run average and 1.053 WHIP, Dickey earned the nod for Opening Day ahead of fellow new acquisitions Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle as well as 2012 returnee Brandon Morrow.
Behind him will be a blend of familiar faces and new acquisitions, as four other players make their Blue Jays debut.
The 2012 MLB All-Star Game MVP, Melky Cabrera will patrol left field after being signed as a free agent from the San Francisco Giants in November.
Key pieces from the blockbuster deal with the Miami Marlins will also make their Jays debuts on Tuesday as 2011 NL batting champion Jose Reyes starts at shortstop. He will be flanked on the infield by another piece of that trade - Emilio Bonifacio, who gets the start at third base - and free agent signing Maicer Izturis, who will start at second.
Five starters from Opening Day 2012 will be in the line-up once again with J.P. Arencibia slated to start behind the plate, Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus starting in right- and centerfield respectively. Meanwhile, Adam Lind starts at first base with 40-home run hitter Edwin Encarnacion taking on designated hitter's duties.
Brett Lawrie – who remains on the disabled list with a rib injury – will be unavailable Tuesday.
The Jays will be looking to get off to a hot start this season with the 2012 American League East-champion New York Yankees ravaged by injuries to start the year.Luckily, the team has been successful of late on Opening Day, emerging victorious on Opening Day in each of the past two seasons.
The Jays have not lost at home on Opening Day since 2004 when the team was blanked 7-0 by the Detroit Tigers.
The Jays and Indians played a 16-inning marathon to kick off the 2012 season. Down 3-1 in the ninth inning in last year's opener,
Edwin Encarnacion capped a rally with a two-run double off Indians' closer Chris Perez to push the game to extra innings. The Jays would seal the victory in the top of the 16th with a three-run home run by Arencibia.
That game set a new Major League record for the longest opener, eclipsing a record that had stood for over 50 years.