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Blue Jays finding rhythm with strengthened bench

TORONTO -- It took a lot longer than first anticipated, but the Blue Jays have used the month of May to find defined roles for all of their players on the 25-man roster.

Toronto began the year with a three-man bench and a reserve outfielder in Moises Sierra, who wasn't offering much value. The career numbers of Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus suggested the need for at least a part-time platoon vs. left-handed pitching, but there was no obvious candidate to step in and fill the void.

Even behind the plate there were some concerns, as Dioner Navarro hadn't started more than 89 games since 2009 and Josh Thole wasn't a particularly solid option against lefties. In other words, the bench was a mess, but as the year progressed, a few viable alternatives started to emerge.

Third baseman Juan Francisco, infielder Steve Tolleson, outfielders Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar and catcher Erik Kratz were all added to the roster. Some of the moves were based on injuries and others were based on need, but overall, they have provided the Blue Jays with a well-rounded group.

"We have a handful of them," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the recruits from Triple-A Buffalo. "We brought Tolleson up to be the second baseman against left-handers. He's doing a great job with that. Of course, Gose and Pillar filling in for Colby -- been a pretty good combo there. Kratzy has been up and down a couple of times, but he has filled in. They're all contributing."

The depth has enabled the Blue Jays to field a much better starting lineup against left-handed starting pitchers. Toronto began the year with a 3-5 record against lefties, but entered play on Monday night vs. Erik Bedard with wins in eight of nine games.

The Blue Jays have gone with the unorthodox approach of carrying three catchers on the roster in a surprisingly effective manner. Thole starts when Dickey pitches and Kratz plays against lefties, while Navarro is technically still the regular starter.

"One thing about Kratz, he's able to give Navarro a little bit of a breather," Gibbons said. "Against left-handed pitching, we can DH Dino; that's where we feel we're the strongest."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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