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Versatility, strong spring has Santos on radar

Righty a long-relief candidate; Happ endures rough outing vs. Red Sox
MLB.com @gregorMLB

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Luis Santos entered Spring Training as a fringe candidate for a spot in the bullpen. He's not flying under anybody's radar now.

Santos continues to be one of the most talked about pitchers in Blue Jays camp. Manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker have been quick to praise Santos, and with every outing the 27-year-old makes, his case seems to get stronger.

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Luis Santos entered Spring Training as a fringe candidate for a spot in the bullpen. He's not flying under anybody's radar now.

Santos continues to be one of the most talked about pitchers in Blue Jays camp. Manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker have been quick to praise Santos, and with every outing the 27-year-old makes, his case seems to get stronger.

View Full Game Coverage

Santos has yet to allow a hit over six scoreless innings. The Dominican native has six strikeouts and one walk while touching the mid-to-upper 90s with his fastball. Santos turned some heads late last year as a September callup, and positive reviews have been easy to find this spring.

"First off, he has a great arm," Gibbons said. "He's a big league pitcher. He has earned that right to see what he can do. The thing that jumps out at me, he has a rubber arm, and all bullpen arms don't. He bounces back probably a little bit more quickly than other guys would."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Despite his performance this spring, Santos still faces an uphill battle to make the 25-man roster. Toronto has two spots up for grabs and a slew of veteran relievers in the mix, including Tyler Clippard, John Axford, Al Alburquerque and Craig Breslow. All four pitchers, along with Santos, signed non-guaranteed Minor League deals.

Santos does have one thing working in his favor: versatility. His four top competitors are essentially one-inning relievers while Santos is a former starter in the Minors and could fill the role of long reliever. He also has options remaining, and if he's added to the 40-man roster, he could later be sent to the Minors if Toronto needs a fresh arm during the season.

"He's one guy who could throw two, three, maybe four innings depending on how rested he is," Gibbons said. "He's good. He gets some strikeouts, he gets some ground balls. Teams are always looking for guys, really because it's such a specialists' game -- most of them are just one-inning guys. He's a guy who can do more than that for you and he threw a few days in a row doing it."

Rough day for Happ

Left-hander J.A. Happ had a bit of a rough go in his fourth start of the spring. Happ allowed four earned runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out four over 4 2/3 innings in Monday afternoon's 6-4 loss to the Red Sox. Happ surrendered a pair of home runs to designated hitter Sandy Leon, but at least one clearly received some help from the windy conditions at Dunedin Stadium.

The biggest positive Happ will take away from Monday's outing is that he became the first Blue Jays pitcher this spring to record an out in the fifth inning. He is expected to throw approximately 85-90 pitches in his next start before easing up in his final outing of the spring. Happ and right-hander Marco Estrada are the top two candidates to be named the Opening Day starter vs. New York on March 29.

"It would be great," said Happ, who has never started Opening Day in his 12-year career. "I would be honored to take the ball, but we'll see what they want to do. I haven't been told anything either way, officially."

Injury updates

• Right fielder Randal Grichuk is currently day to day because of a minor rib cage issue. Grichuk has not appeared in a spring game since Friday and is batting .353 (6-for-17) with three doubles and three RBIs during the Grapefruit League season.

• Outfielder Dalton Pompey underwent a CT scan on his injured right wrist Monday afternoon and has been told to rest for the next couple of days. Pompey was scratched from Sunday's game against the Pirates because of a sore wrist. It first became an issue during a game vs. the Tigers last week.

• Left fielder Steve Pearce went through running drills each of the last two days and is tentatively scheduled to play Thursday. Pearce has been dealing with a minor strain in his right calf but is expected to be ready before Opening Day. If not, Teoscar Hernandez would head north as the fourth outfielder.

Up next: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will make his third start of the spring when the Blue Jays visit the Braves on Tuesday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. The game can be heard via an exclusive audio webcast. Relievers Axford, Taylor Guerrieri, Tim Mayza and Breslow also are scheduled to pitch for Toronto.

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, J.A. Happ, Luis Santos