5 things to watch as Yankees face Blue Jays in three-game series at Yankee Stadium

Here are five things to watch as the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays play a three-game series at Yankee Stadium starting on Friday...

Home sweet home

The Yankees began the 2024 season on the road, and it was a successful trip.

New York enters this weekend's series with a 6-1 record after a four-game sweep of their nemesis Houston Astros and winning two of three against the reigning National League Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. It's a great start, and probably better than the team hoped for. But now, they head home to face a division rival.

The Bronx faithful will be alive for Friday's home opener and likely all weekend as they'll get to see a few new faces like Juan Soto, Marcus Stroman and Alex Verdugo. Can the Yanks replicate the same success they had on the road?

It won't be easy. The Yankees were 7-6 against Toronto last season, but this feels like a different team. The lineup has had a major facelift and there's a swagger to this group that keeps them in games. Speaking of swagger...

Marcus Stroman's homecoming

A lot was -- unfairly -- made of Stroman's decision to not pitch on Opening Day to stay on his schedule. He'll now have the chance to pitch the home opener for the team he rooted for as a child.

Stroman enters his start on Friday coming off a great start against the Astros last weekend. In that March 30 start, Stroman pitched six scoreless innings while giving up just four hits, two walks and striking out four.

The 32-year-old will look to continue that streak of scoreless pitching in front of the home crowd for the first time, and Stroman is ready.

"Great road trip with the squad. NY bound with a bunch of dawgs," Stroman wrote on his social media account after Wednesday's win. "Can’t wait to feel the energy in the Bronx Friday!"

Can Juan Soto make a good first impression?

Soto, like Stroman, will be making his official home debut in the Bronx on Friday and everyone is waiting in anticipation for the type of reception the slugger will receive.

The left-handed outfielder has already gotten off to a great start (.345/.441/.924) with a number of game-winning plays at the plate and in the field, so the Bronx crowd will be firmly behind Soto when he steps up to the plate for the first time.

Soto is in the final year of his contract and according to Aaron Judge, the fans will have a hand in convincing him to re-sign with the Yankees.

"The fans when we show up April 5 will do a lot of convincing, too. I think we’ll be good," Judge said.

We'll see if The Captain's words have reached the fans when they take the field on Friday.

Speaking of Judge...

Has Aaron Judge snapped out of his early-season funk?

Prior to Wednesday's game, Judge was just 3-for-24 with one extra-base hit. In the Yankees' 6-5 win against the Diamondbacks, Judge went 2-for-4, including his first home run of the season and an RBI double in extra innings.

Judge said after the game that to get out of any slump you just "have to keep hitting." Now, the Yankees haven't needed Judge's offensive production this season so far, but they will. The former AL MVP will need to keep hitting at that level if the Yanks hope to make a deep run in the postseason.

Now that he's home, keep an eye on how Judge plays this weekend to make sure his first slump of the season is behind him.

Luis Gil's hunt for win No. 2

Gil looked solid in his first start of the season. Although he gave up just one run on one hits -- and three walks -- in the Yankees' win against Arizona on April 1, Gil did not factor into the decision after pitching just 4.2 innings.

After eight career starts, Gil remains at 1-1 and the Yankees hope the 25-year-old can build on that while he remains in the rotation. Although Gil's stint with the rotation is because Gerrit Cole is out until at least late May, he can show the organization that he can be a bonafide MLB starter.

In eight career starts, Gil has a 3.55 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. He's also struck out 49 batters in 38 innings pitched.

The Yanks want to see Gil be more efficient with his pitches so he can go deeper into starts and potentially give the bullpen more of a rest than he has in the past.