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Blue Jays sign Alburquerque to Minors deal

Club also adds reliever Cruz; both players among 15 NRIs to spring camp
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays officially added some depth to their bullpen on Thursday afternoon by signing right-handers Al Alburquerque and Rhiner Cruz to Minor League deals with invites to Spring Training.

Alburquerque and Cruz are expected to compete for a job in Toronto's bullpen, which should have at least a couple of spots up for grabs when Spring Training gets under way next month in Dunedin, Fla.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays officially added some depth to their bullpen on Thursday afternoon by signing right-handers Al Alburquerque and Rhiner Cruz to Minor League deals with invites to Spring Training.

Alburquerque and Cruz are expected to compete for a job in Toronto's bullpen, which should have at least a couple of spots up for grabs when Spring Training gets under way next month in Dunedin, Fla.

Alburquerque has spent parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues and has a 3.16 ERA over 245 career innings. His specialty is a slider, and while a lack of command has sometimes led to issues, the 31-year-old spent parts of three seasons as a setup man in Detroit from 2013-15.

"I can remember his days in Detroit, never liked to face him, he always had that great slider," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Where he'd run into trouble, he'd have some control problems, trouble throwing strikes. But when he did [throw strikes], he could be dominating. We hope he can go out there and strike out some guys. He has always been a strong, durable guy, so we'll see what he has left."

Cruz hasn't experienced much success in the big leagues, and his last stint came way back in 2013, but the 31-year-old does possess intriguing upside. He has an ability to hit 95 mph with his fastball and is coming off a season in which he struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings in Triple-A.

Toronto currently has Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes and likely Aaron Loup with guaranteed jobs out of the bullpen. The latest recruits -- alongside Carlos Ramirez, Tim Mayza, Matt Dermody and Taylor Guerrieri -- will be among those competing for one of the open roster spots. Joe Biagini could receive some consideration as well, and the Blue Jays are expected to add more relief help in the coming weeks.

The Blue Jays also announced that 13 other non-roster players have received invitations to Spring Training. The list of pitchers includes: RHP Andrew Case, LHP Jose Fernandez, LHP Chad Girodo, RHP Jon Harris, RHP Sean Reid-Foley, RHP Jordan Romano, RHP Chris Rowley and Justin Shafer. The position players include: C Max Pentecost, IF Jason Leblebijian, IF Tim Lopez, OF J.D. Davis and OF Roemon Fields.

Almost all of the non-roster invitees are expected to begin the year in the Minor Leagues. Case and Girodo could have an outside chance of winning a job in the spring, but both likely will begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo.

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, Al Alburquerque