Josh Donaldson is back on the field, and the Blue Jays are inching closer to Opening Day. But there are some lingering questions that Toronto needs to answer before the end of Spring Training.There's uncertainty in left field, the bullpen and at second base. The batting order has yet to
Josh Donaldson is back on the field, and the Blue Jays are inching closer to Opening Day. But there are some lingering questions that Toronto needs to answer before the end of Spring Training.
There's uncertainty in left field, the bullpen and at second base. The batting order has yet to be finalized, and relievers' roles have to be established. These problems aren't uncommon, but they do deserve some extra attention.
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Here's a closer look at five pressing questions surrounding the Blue Jays.
1. Who will bat leadoff?
For Devon Travis, the obvious choice, health is still a concern. The 26-year-old made his spring debut in a Minor League game on Tuesday as the designated hitter, but he did not run the bases. If Travis is not ready to go, there is no clear-cut candidate to replace him. But Ezequiel Carrera, Kevin Pillar or perhaps even temporarily Jose Bautista will receive some consideration.
2. What's happening in left field?
Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. entered camp as the favorites to split the job in left field. The competition is ongoing, but Dalton Pompey seems destined to spend at least a bit more time in the Minors. Carrera and Upton do not form a traditional platoon because both struggled vs. righties in 2016, so there's a question as to how manager John Gibbons will assign playing time. Factors will include matchups and perhaps a need at the top of the lineup whenever Travis is not available.
3. Will there be a second lefty in the bullpen?
If the answer is yes -- and Gibbons seemed to be leaning in that direction earlier this week -- Aaron Loup will become the clear favorite to crack the roster. There are other candidates, but Loup has the most experience, he makes the most money and likely deserves the first opportunity. If Loup struggles, Matt Dermody warrants serious consideration after making the team as a September callup in 2016 and impressing this spring with five scoreless appearances. Other names: Tim Mayza, Ryan Borucki and the recovering TJ House.
4. Who will be the last man standing?
If the Blue Jays start the year with two lefties in the 'pen, that would leave one spot up for grabs from a long list of pitchers who are on Minor League deals or out of options. Bo Schultz and Mike Bolsinger cannot be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers. Mat Latos and Gavin Floyd (who has yet to appear in a spring game) do not have big league guarantees. Toronto likely needs some length from this final spot, which should make it difficult for the hard-throwing Schultz. Latos offers the most versatility and has been considered the favorite, but he also has allowed seven runs over eight innings this spring.
5. Where will Steve Pearce play?
Pearce got off to a delayed start this spring as he continued to rehab from last year's elbow surgery. He has appeared in six games but has yet to play the field, and that does seem to limit his chances of winning the bulk of the playing time in left. A more realistic scenario is that Pearce will open the year as the starter at first base vs. lefties, and if he plays well, there could be an opportunity for gradually increased at-bats in the outfield.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.