DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays officially wrapped up their Grapefruit League on Sunday afternoon, but there are still a few pressing questions that have to be answered before Opening Day.Toronto manager John Gibbons declined to announce his 25-man roster before his team left for an exhibition series against the
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays officially wrapped up their Grapefruit League on Sunday afternoon, but there are still a few pressing questions that have to be answered before Opening Day.
Toronto manager John Gibbons declined to announce his 25-man roster before his team left for an exhibition series against the Cardinals in Montreal. The final moves likely won't take place until the conclusion of that two-game set on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays officially open the regular season on Thursday afternoon against the Yankees, with lefty J.A. Happ taking on right-hander Luis Severino. Here's a closer look at the three questions still surrounding the Blue Jays with Opening Day just around the corner:
Who bats leadoff?
Gibbons has yet to settle on a leadoff man, but the job will go to veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson or second baseman Devon Travis. This decision will have a ripple effect throughout the batting order because if Granderson leads off, then Travis likely hits second while Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak would hit third and fourth respectively.
Travis likely becomes the leadoff man against lefties regardless of what the Blue Jays decide to do elsewhere, but Granderson is still in the mix to hit first against right-handed starters. At this point, that seems to be the likeliest course of action with an Opening Day lineup that could look like this: Granderson, Travis, Donaldson, Smoak, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, Randal Grichuk, Aledmys Diaz and Kevin Pillar.
"You'll find out on Thursday," Gibbons said when pressed for a more specific answer.
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Who earns the final two spots in the bullpen?
Veteran right-handers Tyler Clippard and John Axford are the clear frontrunners. Both relievers will stay behind in Florida to throw sides while most of their teammates head to Montreal for the series against the Cardinals. That would seem to indicate their competition has come to an end and both relievers have a spot in the bullpen.
Lefty Tim Mayza still has an outside shot to crack the 25-man roster. Is it likely? Probably not, but the Blue Jays technically could make an unexpected move of optioning right-hander Danny Barnes to the Minors, which would allow Toronto to start the year with a second lefty in the 'pen.
"I think that's ideal," Gibbons said of having a second lefty. "Whether that happens or not, I'm not sure yet. But a lot of those guys had good springs and we know a lot about them. It's not going to be an easy decision but we have a pretty good idea of where it's going to go, we're just not ready to announce it."
Who wins the final spot on the bench?
Utility infielders Danny Espinosa and Mpho' Ngoepe are vying for the final spot on Toronto's bench. Ngoepe was the clear favorite early in camp, but that changed when Espinosa signed a Minor League deal late in Spring Training. All things being equal, Espinosa might have an edge, but the problem is he's not on the 40-man roster and the Blue Jays already need to clear two spots for Axford and Clippard.
Promoting Espinosa to the big league roster would force the Blue Jays to clear a third spot. It's possible Troy Tulowitzki will require a stint on the 60-day disabled list, while players such as Sam Gaviglio, Sam Moll, Dalton Pompey and John Smith could all be at risk of being removed from the 40-man roster.
Espinosa is a career .221/.297/.378 hitter in parts of eight seasons in the Major Leagues, while Ngoepe had a slash line of .222/.323/.296 in 28 games for the Pirates last season.
"That guy is probably not going to play a whole lot to begin with," Gibbons said. "They'll play, but I think it always helps to be able to hit in the big leagues. You want to be able to do some things with the bat. You don't have to be able to do that, but it's ideal."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.