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5 questions the Blue Jays still need to answer

@gregorMLB
March 14, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are two weeks away from Opening Day, and yet a lot of question marks surrounding the 25-man roster remain. Toronto has at least one outfield spot up for grabs, a batting order that seems to be changing by the day and a slew of

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are two weeks away from Opening Day, and yet a lot of question marks surrounding the 25-man roster remain.

Toronto has at least one outfield spot up for grabs, a batting order that seems to be changing by the day and a slew of options to consider in the bullpen. Here are the top five questions the Blue Jays must answer before Marcus Stroman throws the first pitch of the year on March 28 vs. the Tigers:

Who starts in left field?
Teoscar Hernandez has been one of the top performers all spring. In 11 games, the 26-year-old is batting .481 (13-for-27) with five RBIs, seven runs and five walks. Hernandez entered play on Thursday with a 1.146 OPS, which trailed only Bo Bichette and Anthony Alford for the highest of any Blue Jay with at least 15 at-bats. The only issue is that Hernandez's top competitor, Billy McKinney, is having a pretty good spring of his own, with a .276/.400/.517 slash line across 29 at-bats.

Prediction: Hernandez receives the bulk of the playing time in left to start the year. McKinney still makes the roster and will move around the outfield, while occasionally getting reps at first base.

Who bats leadoff?
Manager Charlie Montoyo has auditioned almost everyone in the top spot this spring. Freddy Galvis, Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey and McKinney have led off games, and Montoyo mentioned Hernandez and Randal Grichuk as possibilities as well. The reality is that the Blue Jays do not have a traditional leadoff hitter, and they are shaping up to be the type of team that uses a different lineup almost every night.

Prediction: McKinney will bat leadoff whenever he is in the lineup. On the days when McKinney isn't playing, Toronto should be expected to use a whole bunch of different players depending on matchups. Grichuk, Hernandez, Pillar and Galvis all might get turns.

When will Clay Buchholz be ready?
Buchholz signed a one-year deal to be a member of the starting rotation. That's still the plan, but it won't happen by Opening Day. Buchholz has yet to make an appearance this spring, but he's getting close. The 34-year-old is expected to throw live batting practice on Friday and will then start the process of getting stretched out. Buchholz is currently working without a timeframe for a regular season debut, but it stands to reason he will miss at least the first two weeks.

Prediction: Buchholz is promoted from the Minors in mid-to-late April, and eventually takes the starting job of Clayton Richard, who could shift to the 'pen as a long reliever.

Who will be in the bullpen?
Ken Giles
will be the closer, Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris should start the year as the top setup men, while John Axford and lefty Tim Mayza are two other clear favorites to crack the roster. David Phelps will eventually be there, too, but not until he has fully recovered from last year's Tommy John surgery. That leaves either two or three jobs up for grabs from a group that includes Rule 5 Draft pick Elvis Luciano, Joe Biagini, Danny Barnes, Jacob Waguespack, David Paulino and Sam Gaviglio.

Prediction: Toronto opens the year with an eight-man bullpen, with Phelps starting the season on the injured list. That leaves three spots for Biagini, Luciano and a long reliever.

What position(s) will Lourdes Gurriel Jr. play?
An injury to Devon Travis created a large void at second base, and that could be where Gurriel finds a home early in the year. The issue is that once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. recovers from injury and gets promoted from the Minors, Brandon Drury likely will have to shift from third to second. So where does that leave Gurriel? He should see time all over the field with stops at second, third, short and possibly the corner outfield spots.

Prediction: Gurriel receives at-bats almost every day as a super utility player. The Blue Jays likely would be best served allowing Gurriel to settle into one position to increase his level of comfort, but the club seems focused on his versatility more than anything else.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook.