TORONTO -- When baseball is back, part of the return to “normal” will be picking up where teams left off with their Spring Training roster decisions.
Here’s a look at what the Blue Jays will still need to sort out before Opening Day.
No. 5 starter
This job was Trent Thornton’s to lose when Spring Training was suspended, and it will likely remain that way when things get rolling again. This additional time will be important for the depth roles beyond the No. 5 starter, though, presenting a very interesting wrinkle to the equation.
Shun Yamaguchi, who entered camp as Thornton’s main competition, struggled early but should benefit from having more time to adjust after making the big move from Japan. Anthony Kay impressed at points this spring, too, and the crowded group of Triple-A Buffalo starters will be in a battle of their own to determine the next man up when a need arises at the Major League level.
Then you have Nate Pearson, the club’s No. 1 prospect who dazzled in Spring Training with 100-mph heat and devastating secondary pitches. The plan was for Pearson to open the season in Triple-A, with a call to the big leagues reasonably believed to come in May or June. How this stoppage impacts Pearson’s timeline is the most interesting variable of all.
Bullpen and setup man
Right-hander Rafael Dolis was at risk of missing the start of the season after having his appendix removed, which was a legitimate loss for Toronto after he had emerged as an eighth-inning option in front of closer Ken Giles. Now, that shouldn’t be an issue, and the Blue Jays like what they see after Dolis returned from four seasons in Japan.
“I think the [pitch] combination is extremely effective. He’s not going to be a comfortable at-bat,” said pitching coach Pete Walker. “I know he hasn’t been here pitching in a few years, but I think he’s learned a lot in Japan. I can just tell by his demeanor and mound presence.”
Beyond Giles, Dolis, Anthony Bass, Wilmer Font, Sam Gaviglio and likely Yamaguchi, a couple of bullpen jobs are still available. There are favorites -- like A.J. Cole -- but the unpredictable nature of relievers means that this competition could open back up.
At the same time, if the Blue Jays want to keep two spare outfielders, it could be Tellez who feels the squeeze as the club creates a revolving door at designated hitter. Alford blazed out of the gates, stealing three bases in an inning earlier in camp and showing Toronto exactly why he would be a great 26th man, but he cooled off soon thereafter. Tellez, on the other hand, entered camp in better shape and was hitting well.
A calmer approach, Tellez thinks, will help his spring results translate into the games that matter.
“I view myself as one of the stronger players in baseball,” Tellez said. “I don’t have to go get pitches. I can miss pitches and hit them out. I’m being compact with my swing and understanding my strength and not trying to hit the ball a country mile every swing.”