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Roster decisions loom as Blue Jays open camp

Pitching staff, injuries among major issues to be sorted out
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' Spring Training will officially open Wednesday in Dunedin, Fla., and for the first time in several years a lot of roster spots will be hanging in the balance.

Toronto is set to open camp with multiple questions that have to be answered before Opening Day. Who is the fifth starter? Who are the final pieces in the bullpen? What should Toronto expect from Aaron Sanchez? Will Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis start the year on time? Similar inquiries take place all around Major League Baseball, but it's a big change for a Blue Jays team that in recent years arrived in Florida with a 25-man roster that appeared mostly set.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' Spring Training will officially open Wednesday in Dunedin, Fla., and for the first time in several years a lot of roster spots will be hanging in the balance.

Toronto is set to open camp with multiple questions that have to be answered before Opening Day. Who is the fifth starter? Who are the final pieces in the bullpen? What should Toronto expect from Aaron Sanchez? Will Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis start the year on time? Similar inquiries take place all around Major League Baseball, but it's a big change for a Blue Jays team that in recent years arrived in Florida with a 25-man roster that appeared mostly set.

• Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

It has been more than four months since the Blue Jays last took the field, but the long wait is finally over. Pitchers and catchers will report for their physicals on Tuesday with the first workout scheduled for the following day. Position players undergo physicals on Feb. 18, with the first official full squad workout set for Feb. 19. Spring baseball is right around the corner.

Toronto's first Grapefruit League game is set for Feb. 23 in Dunedin vs. the Phillies. The schedule officially wraps up on March 25 with an afternoon game against the Pirates, and the Blue Jays will then travel to Montreal for a two-game exhibition series vs. the Cardinals on March 26-27. Some of the other highlights this spring include a visit from the Canadian Junior National Team on March 17, and at least one home game vs. every divisional rival.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The competition for the final job in Toronto's rotation will be one of the most compelling races to watch. Joe Biagini currently is the clear frontrunner, but the Blue Jays are still looking for additional depth, and there's an expectation that they will add another arm. Biagini's performance could impact that decision, and prospects such as Ryan Borucki, Sean Reid-Foley, Taylor Guerrieri and Thomas Pannone will be competing to become the next in line.

In the bullpen, rookie Carlos Ramirez is one of the arms to keep an eye on. The 26-year-old made his debut and performed well with a 2.70 ERA over 16 2/3 innings as a September callup. Ramirez did not allow an earned run over 37 2/3 innings in the Minors last season, but the issue is that he has options remaining, and will have to force his way onto the roster.

Video: KC@TOR: Ramirez whiffs Bonifacio to end top of 6th

The other aspect of this year's Spring Training that will be crucial to Toronto's upcoming season is health. The roster was decimated by injuries in 2017, and while the additions of Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz provide much-needed depth, the Blue Jays' core still needs to stay mostly healthy for this team to have a chance. Toronto clearly can't afford to lose Josh Donaldson for six weeks like it did last year, and the Blue Jays sorely need Travis at the top of the lineup.

The Blue Jays' medical staff appears to have a lot on the table as Spring Training opens. Sanchez's blister, Donaldson's hip and calf, Tulowitzki's right ankle, Travis' right knee and all of the other ailments that are sure to pop up will have to be closely monitored. The medical report isn't exciting, but in Toronto's case it will likely decide its fate early in season.

Video: Travis on his injuries, being on a competitive roster

"You can overcome a so-so start in this [American] league, but it's very tough, almost impossible sometimes to recover from a bad, bad start, and that's what we had last year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It was an uphill battle all the way. We held our optimism hoping for a good run, but it never happened. However we're going to do it, we have to come out of the gates better. That's not necessarily an easy thing to do; it doesn't just happen. There's no magic formula but we have to find a way to do that."

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