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Blue Jays' Opening Day roster set

Axford, Clippard prevail in battle for final two spots in bullpen
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- John Axford and Tyler Clippard made the cut as the Blue Jays officially announced their 25-man roster prior to Thursday's Opening Day game against the Yankees.

Clippard and Axford were the clear front-runners in a crowded competition for the final two spots in the Blue Jays' bullpen this spring. They beat out fellow relievers Al Alburquerque, Tim Mayza, Luis Santos and Craig Breslow for the final spots.

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TORONTO -- John Axford and Tyler Clippard made the cut as the Blue Jays officially announced their 25-man roster prior to Thursday's Opening Day game against the Yankees.

Clippard and Axford were the clear front-runners in a crowded competition for the final two spots in the Blue Jays' bullpen this spring. They beat out fellow relievers Al Alburquerque, Tim Mayza, Luis Santos and Craig Breslow for the final spots.

View Full Game Coverage

To make room for the two relievers on the 40-man roster, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was placed on the 60-day disabled list with bilateral heel bone spurs, while left-hander Sam Moll was designated for assignment.

Tulowitzki arrived in Spring Training plagued by bone spurs after rehabbing a right ankle injury during the offseason. He was slow to progress throughout camp, and his timeline was initially pushed back from Opening Day to the end of April -- and now at least until the end of May. Aledmys Diaz and Gift Ngoepe will handle the duties at shortstop during his absence.

Here's a closer look at the full breakdown of Toronto's 25-man roster.

Catchers (2): Russell Martin and Luke Maile
It's status quo for the Blue Jays' backstops. Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire will offer insurance in the Minor Leagues, but neither one had a real chance to head north at the end of camp. Both prospects are competing to become the first callup if either Martin or Maile goes down with an injury.

First base (1): Justin Smoak
The 31-year-old will have the difficult task of trying to repeat his performance from a year ago. Smoak set career highs in every major statistical category, including home runs (38), RBIs (90) and WAR (3.2). The concern is that Smoak posted a .717 OPS over the final two months.

Second base (1): Devon Travis
The 27-year-old was one of the most positive developments for the Blue Jays in Spring Training. Travis became a full participant in camp a little bit earlier than expected following last year's rght knee surgery, and all signs point to him being 100 percent for Opening Day. He's expected to hit first or second in the batting order, and he is one of the biggest wild cards this team has.

Shortstop (1): Diaz
Tulowitzki was extremely limited throughout camp, and he did not look like a guy who was going to be back in the lineup any time soon. Diaz takes over as the starting shortstop during Tulo's absence, and he'll look to regain the form from 2016 that saw him make the National League All-Star team with the Cardinals.

Third base (1): Josh Donaldson
The 2015 American League MVP Award winner dealt with a sore right shoulder early in Spring Training, and Donaldson also had some minor cramping in his right calf muscle, but he was fine over the final two weeks of camp. He's the centerpiece of Toronto's lineup, and after finishing '17 on a tear, injuries might be the only thing that could stop him from contending for the league's top honor again this season.

Designated hitter (1): Kendrys Morales
Morales starts the year as the Blue Jays' everyday DH, but he'll need to overcome last year's poor results to maintain a regular presence in the lineup. Regardless of what happens, Morales will be in the lineup more often than not, but if he struggles early, Toronto could start rotating other players such as Travis and Donaldson through the DH spot for regular periods of rest.

Utility infielders (2):Yangervis Solarte and Ngoepe
A case could be made that the Blue Jays would be better off carrying another reliever instead of two backup infielders, but Toronto maintained all along that this would be the configuration people should expect. Manager John Gibbons wants the added depth to make sure Travis gets enough rest at second, and the jury is still out on Diaz as an everyday option at short.

Video: TB@TOR: Espinosa cranks a solo homer to center field

Outfielders (4): Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce, Kevin Pillar and Randal Grichuk
Granderson will start in left field against righties, and Pearce will get the call against lefties. Pillar and Grichuk should be everyday players, and if anyone goes down with an injury, then Teoscar Hernandez will earn a promotion from the Minors. Prospect Anthony Alford needs some additional time at Triple-A Buffalo, but there's a lot of depth to work from here. The question is whether the ceiling of this current group is high enough.

Starting pitchers (5): J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman and Jaime Garcia
Happ receives the honor of starting Opening Day for the first time in his career, while a healthy Sanchez gets the nod in Game 2. Stroman's situation will have to be closely monitored early in the season, because he did not get properly stretched out this spring following a right shoulder injury. Stroman should be limited to around 85 pitches in his season debut, but by starting Game 4, he allows the Blue Jays to avoid using a second lefty in the four-game series vs. New York.

Video: Gibbons names Happ Opening Day starter for Blue Jays

Relief pitchers (7): Roberto Osuna, Seung Hwan Oh, Axford, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Aaron Loup and Clippard
Axford and Clippard locked down the final two spots, and now it's about Gibbons trying to find the best mix. Osuna is the undisputed closer here, but Oh and Axford will be competing to become the primary eighth-inning setup man. Clippard and his ideal splits essentially can be used as a second lefty specialist, while Tepera and Barnes might need to go multiple innings because of Toronto's lack of a long reliever.

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

Toronto Blue Jays, John Axford, Tyler Clippard