DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays will officially open their Grapefruit League season against the Phillies on Friday afternoon with a projected 25-man roster that appears mostly set.With the exception of two or three spots in the bullpen, there are not a lot of jobs up for grabs. The thing
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays will officially open their Grapefruit League season against the Phillies on Friday afternoon with a projected 25-man roster that appears mostly set.
With the exception of two or three spots in the bullpen, there are not a lot of jobs up for grabs. The thing is, that has been the case during recent springs as well, and all it took was a couple of injuries to change everything.
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On the eve of Joe Biagini taking the ball for the spring opener, here's a closer look at the Blue Jays' dark-horse candidates for the upcoming season:
Ramirez currently projects to start the season at Triple-A, but that has more to do with his contract status than anything else. Veterans on Minor League deals such as John Axford, Craig Breslow and Al Alburquerque appear to have an inside track because that's the most efficient way for Toronto to preserve its depth. Ramirez likely would become the first reliever promoted during the regular season, but he's facing an uphill battle for a more guaranteed role.
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That being said, this is the same reliever who did not give up a single earned run in the Minor Leagues last season and had a strong debut as a September callup in 2017. Manager John Gibbons also loves his ability to throw more than one inning per appearance, so Ramirez still has a lot working in his favor. One way to force the issue would be by dominating this spring.
Alburquerque also remains in the mix for one of the spots in the bullpen. Fellow veterans Axford and Breslow entered camp as perceived favorites, and the third spot likely will go to a long reliever, but don't count out Alburquerque quite yet. He has seven years of experience in middle relief and his velocity remains strong at age 31. Alburquerque's strikeout rate dropped the last two years, but he has averaged 10.7 per nine innings over his career. A lack of consistent command is the primary issue here, but if he outpitches Axford, Alburquerque has a shot to head north.
Carrera has spent the last three years in Toronto, but he'll likely need an injury for his stint to continue. When everyone is healthy, the Blue Jays are expected to carry Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Steve Pearce and Luke Maile on the bench. If Troy Tulowitzki isn't ready by Opening Day, Diaz likely slots in as the starting shortstop and Toronto could opt to carry Solarte as the lone backup infielder. That's really the only realistic scenario in which Carrera could make this team. Carrera is out of options and can't be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers, so it would appear as though is days in Toronto are numbered.
Jansen is not going to crack the 25-man roster on Opening Day, but if something happens to catcher Russell Martin at some point during the season then Jansen will quickly enter the conversation. Maile is the clear-cut choice for the backup role, but he's also known as a defensive specialist who is typically deployed in limited stints. It might not seem like Jansen is competing for a job this spring, but how he looks will determine whether or not he gets a shot at the starting job if Martin needs a break. For now, Jansen needs to play every day and will continue his development in the Minors, but this is a name to keep an eye on because his time is coming.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.