The Blue Jays will get their first look at Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr. when the Grapefruit League season officially gets underway in a road game against Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.Toronto is holding back almost all of its regulars for Sunday's home opener, but a group of the club's top
The Blue Jays will get their first look at Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr. when the Grapefruit League season officially gets underway in a road game against Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.
Toronto is holding back almost all of its regulars for Sunday's home opener, but a group of the club's top prospects and left fielder Dalton Pompey will be making the trip. Minor League right-hander Casey Lawrence gets the start for the Blue Jays while the Braves are scheduled to counter with veteran Bartolo Colon.
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Gurriel joined the Blue Jays during the offseason on a seven-year deal worth $22 million. He's set to open the year in the Minor Leagues at either Double-A New Hampshire or Triple-A Buffalo but could be ready for the big leagues as early as 2018. At the time of his signing, Gurriel was ranked No. 6 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 30 international prospects list.
"This gets monotonous," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters earlier this week in reference to the daily workouts before games begin. "You do it day after day. Players are ready to start going, too. Especially those young guys, they want to show us something."
Five of MLBPipeline.com's top 20 Toronto prospects will be in attendance for the game. OF Anthony Alford, SS Richard Urena, 1B Rowdy Tellez, C Reese McGuire and LHP Ryan Borucki are among those listed on the travel roster. Rule 5 pick Glenn Sparkman is expected to make his debut as he begins to audition for a spot in the bullpen.
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A lot of the eyes will be on the prospects, but Pompey should not be overlooked in all of his. He no longer qualifies as a prospect but age 24 he's not too far removed from that status and will be looking to make his case for a job in left field. Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. are part of a crowded list of candidates for the position, but a strong performance this spring could pressure the organization to consider Pompey as well.
Toronto will have a much larger veteran presence around for its home opener Sunday against the Phillies. Right-hander Mat Latos will get the start as he begins to get stretched out while at the same time competing for a job in the bullpen. Right-hander Joe Biagini is also expected to make his spring debut against the Phillies and former Blue Jay Michael Saunders. Josh Donaldson (calf) and Troy Tulowitzki -- who is not his making spring debut for another week -- will not be available this weekend but other regulars are expeced to play.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.