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Notes: Lourdes Gurriel may see time at 1st

Jansen impresses with offseason routine; Montoyo shuts door on opener
@KeeganMatheson
February 19, 2020

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- More than a week into Spring Training, it’s getting easier to see a scenario in which the Blue Jays enter the season with only Travis Shaw listed at first base or DH. On Wednesday, however, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. entered that complicated picture in a small way.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- More than a week into Spring Training, it’s getting easier to see a scenario in which the Blue Jays enter the season with only Travis Shaw listed at first base or DH. On Wednesday, however, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. entered that complicated picture in a small way.

Gurriel looked very comfortable in left field in 2019 -- another injury-shortened season -- but manager Charlie Montoyo suggested that he could fill in at first base for the odd game when the matchup calls for it.

“I could see him playing first also, to help us out for a game or two,” Montoyo said. “We're facing a lefty or something, he could play first because he's got good hands. I already know that so that could happen. But as right now, he's a left fielder, he did a great job last year and that's where he's going to play."

Add that to Cavan Biggio’s ability to play first and the long list of names who can cycle through the DH spot, including Teoscar Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and there might be more pressure on Rowdy Tellez during roster crunch time at the end of camp.

The assumed roster construction entering camp was that the Blue Jays’ bench would feature one reserve infielder (likely Brandon Drury), two reserve outfielders and one bench bat (likely Tellez). Joe Panik’s presence needs to be taken seriously, though, as the veteran infielder is expected to push for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

All of this can change with a rolled ankle or strained hamstring, of course, but Montoyo has spoken openly of the value of having DH flexibility.

“I like to play all of the guys, so that’s going to give me the chance to use that DH spot and play everybody,” Montoyo said. “Again, we’ll have an extra guy this year so it might be a little bit tougher to play everybody, but having the DH spot open is going to allow me to play more people.”

Gurriel is still likely to be out in left field nearly every day this season, but this wrinkle adds another layer. In the end, the Blue Jays won’t just be picking the best pure players for their reserve roles, but the players who fit their desired style and roster construction.

Jansen improves routines, balance
In 2019, Danny Jansen focused on defense. It worked, as the rookie was nominated for the American League Gold Glove Award, but his bat trailed slightly behind. Jansen hit .207 with a .640 OPS in 2019, but impressed Montoyo with his approach this offseason.

“You don't see that for a young guy,” Montoyo said. “Everybody wants to hit first and then worry about the defense. He didn't really have a routine. He had a routine when it came to his defense, he knew what he had to do to get ready for the game, but when it comes to the hitting part, he never really had one and I know he found one now so that's good news for us.”

End of the opener?
Montoyo isn’t expecting to use the opener strategy, or bullpen days, in 2020.

"As of right now, I'm not anticipating using the opener, no. I think we have enough pitching that we shouldn't have to,” Montoyo said. “I’m not going to say never ever. That thing works also, but as of right now, we got our rotation set and we shouldn't be using the opener as of right now."

The opener doesn’t necessarily need an injury or open rotation spot to be used, though. Depending on who is the No. 5 starter through the season, and which lineups the Blue Jays run into along the way, it shouldn’t be entirely off the table.

If the Blue Jays do go back to the strategy at any point, they’ll have no shortage of options given that their bullpen is projected to have a handful of the hard-throwing, right-handed arms that Montoyo has typically turned to in that role.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.