DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are still two days away from the start of their Grapefruit League season, but some important storylines have already emerged out of Spring Training.All spring performances have to be taken with a grain of salt. Success in these games does not always carry over
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are still two days away from the start of their Grapefruit League season, but some important storylines have already emerged out of Spring Training.
All spring performances have to be taken with a grain of salt. Success in these games does not always carry over into the regular season, but it's still important to note who looks good, and who doesn't, during the early stages of 2018.
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Toronto's pitchers and catchers have been working out since Feb. 13, and position players joined them earlier this week. Here are five observations from the first two weeks of camp:
This year's spring is more important to Aaron Sanchez than anyone else. He attempted to return from blister issues three separate times last season, but every time Sanchez got close the injury resurfaced. So far this spring, it has been a different story. Sanchez has been throwing bullpens without any issues and on Tuesday he completed his first live batting practice.
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So, how has Sanchez looked? Well, just read what people have been saying about him.
"He really looked like midseason form," manager John Gibbons said.
He has been "outstanding," according to pitching coach Pete Walker.
"That was backdoor nasty," commented Russell Martin.
Everyone around the Blue Jays love what they have seen so far and if the blister doesn't pop up again, Sanchez should be in line for a big season.
Travis ahead of schedule
Another positive development for Toronto has been the early performance of Devon Travis. The 27-year-old spent the offseason rehabbing from last year's knee surgery and only began running a couple of weeks before the start of camp. Since then, he has passed every physical test the Blue Jays have thrown in his direction. Travis has been a full participant in fielding drills and has been showing no lingering effects from the injury while taking ground balls or turning the double play.
The same can't be said about shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is off to a delayed start this spring because of a bone spur in his right foot. Tulowitzki's status for Opening Day is still somewhat in doubt.
The bullpen is the one spot where the Blue Jays are still looking to add. The most likely scenario would see Toronto add a multi-inning swingman who could serve as the long reliever while providing additional protection for the rotation. The biggest benefit from that might be allowing Joe Biagini to continue his development as a starter in the Minors instead of moving him back to the bullpen. Gibbons would like to have Biagini on the roster, but if another proven arm is added to the mix then it's possible Gibbons' opinion will change.
Some names to keep in mind are: Jesse Chavez, Scott Feldman, Francisco Liriano or one-inning options like Tyler Clippard and Seunghwan Oh.
The perfect PR
Two years ago, Jose Bautista was the talk of baseball because of his outspoken comments regarding free agency. At the time he infamously said: "I don't think there should be any negotiations. I think I've proven myself, and the question has been asked, 'What will it take?' and I've given them an answer."
Josh Donaldson reported to camp in a similar position because he's set to hit the open market at the end of the year. Unlike Bautista, Donaldson has handled the situation almost perfectly. Donaldson spoke openly about a desire to remain with the Blue Jays long term, but remained diplomatic throughout and did not direct any criticism at his bosses. Donaldson insisted that even though negotiations have been put on hold, he still fully expects talks to pick up again at the end of the season.
The only real battle for a job on the 25-man roster is taking place in the bullpen. Toronto has three spots up for grabs after Roberto Osuna, Dennis Tepera, Danny Barnes and Aaron Loup. Veterans John Axford and Craig Breslow appear to be the early favorites, with the final spot going to a long reliever. The rest of the roster appears pretty much set, with the possible exception of the infield because of the uncertainty surrounding Tulowitzki. Rookie right-hander Carlos Ramirez will really have to open some eyes during Grapefruit League play to overthrow one of the veteran arms, while the same could be said about lefties Matt Dermody and Tim Mayza. With options remaining on their contracts, early signs point to Ramirez, Dermody and Mayza starting the season 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.