Blue Jays flock to Florida with jobs up for grabs
Roster battles on deck in Dunedin as reporting dates approach
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' first official workout for pitchers and catchers is less than a week away as the countdown to the return of baseball and the start of Spring Training continues.
Toronto's pitchers and catchers officially report to camp Sunday. The following day, Spring Training will get underway at the Bobby Mattick Minor League complex, with position players set to join later in the week.
The Blue Jays' camp should prove to be more compelling this spring compared with some of the others in recent years. There are jobs up for grabs in almost every facet of the team, with the final 25-man roster still anyone's guess.
"I like what we have," manager John Gibbons recently said. "... We have a good mix of some good veteran players, real good players, with some good young players, some guys who have a chance to be really good at this level.
"Guys that don't get intimidated, they're great competitors, and I think it will be a better mix with some youth and some good veterans. I'm excited about it."
The Blue Jays' strength can be found in a batting order that should rank among the league's best. Jose Reyes, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders are expected to form the top six. The bottom three come with varying levels of uncertainty.
Justin Smoak could get regular playing time at first base, or the Blue Jays could decide to use Encarnacion there with Dioner Navarro getting at-bats in the DH spot. At second, there are as many as five players competing for the starting and backup positions with Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins and rookie Devon Travis leading the way.
Center field seemingly belongs to Dalton Pompey but Kevin Pillar will also audition for the role. Andy Dirks and Ramon Santiago are among the prominent veteran non-roster invitees who will also look to crack the Major League roster.
In the rotation, the final spot likely will come down to either veteran Marco Estrada or rookie left-hander Daniel Norris. The bullpen could go in any number of directions, but Brett Cecil, Aaron Sanchez and Aaron Loup will have very prominent roles and everything else is up in the air.
"If you look at it realistically, if Sanchez ends up in the bullpen, which can happen, then we feel good," Gibbons said. "I think we'd all like to see him as a starter and see what he does. He has a chance to be one of the better starters in baseball, I think we all feel. If he ends up in the bullpen, that eliminates a lot of the questions."
Pitchers and catchers report:
Full squad reports:
First Spring Training game:
Home vs. Pirates, March 3, 1:07 p.m. ET
Away vs. Yankees, April 6, 1:05 p.m. ET