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Eight-man bullpen a possibility to begin season

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are at least contemplating the thought of once again starting the season with an eight-man bullpen.

Toronto has a series of tough decisions to make with its starting rotation and bullpen. There's a long list of players who are out of Minor League options on their contracts, and carrying an extra reliever could be one way to help alleviate the problem.

The Blue Jays started last season with eight relievers, and that type of scenario will be considered when the club makes its final cuts at the end of March.

"If everyone is throwing the ball that well and we don't want to expose anyone to waivers or we don't want to trade someone and not get full value, we could go to an eight-man bullpen," general manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters Thursday morning.

"It's not ideal, but we've definitely done it before, so we could do that. And that would be a good problem to have. I hope everybody throws the ball unbelievably well. I hate saying this, but the reality of it is, there will be some guys that don't perform. There will be some guys that get hurt. Nobody's hurt right now, knock on wood, but we have five, six weeks -- everyone has something that goes on in Spring Training. A lot of that takes care of itself by the end of camp."

Health will certainly be a factor, but if everyone gets through camp unscathed, it will be up to Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons to make the tough decision.

Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Luis Perez and Jeremy Jeffress are among those who are competing for jobs but cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without first being exposed to waivers. Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos and Brett Cecil also are out of options, but they should have guaranteed jobs heading into the regular season.

Outfielder Moises Sierra is out of options as well, and an eight-man bullpen could potentially have a direct impact on his future with the organization. Sierra is competing for the final spot on the bench, but if the Blue Jays really wanted to keep him in the fold it's also possible he could make the team over Anthony Gose as Toronto's fourth outfielder.

The Blue Jays ideally would start the season with a seven-man bullpen, but carrying an extra reliever could be at least a short-term fix. It's a lot easier to sneak a player through waivers at the start of the season when other teams have finalized their rosters and are more hesitant to make an additional move.

"It's going to be a factor," Anthopoulos said when asked if options will dictate which players make the team. "Right now we can't carry everybody. ... But based on past Spring Trainings, I don't know that anybody ever stays completely healthy or has great performances the entire way.

"The only two guys that have options are Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup, and they were such a huge part of our bullpen that I'd be extremely surprised to ever see a change with those guys. You still have to go out and perform. It's a great problem to have; I'd much rather be in that position than say we have three or four guys and we're looking to add someone in Spring Training."

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