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Atkins: Goins' versatility earns him roster spot

Although Upton was expected to make 25-man, Blue Jays feel infielder better fits club's needs
MLB.com @gregorMLB

BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said it was Ryan Goins' versatility that ultimately won him a spot on the 25-man roster over veteran outfielder Melvin Upton Jr.

Goins and Upton were competing for the final spot on the roster. The initial expectation was that Upton would make the team, but when the Blue Jays gathered to go over their options, they felt like Goins was the better fit for what this club needs.

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BALTIMORE -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said it was Ryan Goins' versatility that ultimately won him a spot on the 25-man roster over veteran outfielder Melvin Upton Jr.

Goins and Upton were competing for the final spot on the roster. The initial expectation was that Upton would make the team, but when the Blue Jays gathered to go over their options, they felt like Goins was the better fit for what this club needs.

View Full Game Coverage

Atkins cited Goins' ability to play both the infield and the outfield, plus the fact that he is under club control for several more years, as the primary reasons that the glove-first utility man made the team.

"Really came down to versatility, handedness, years of control and thinking about not just what gives us the best chance to win tomorrow, but sustained winning," Atkins said Monday morning. "Ultimately, the versatility of our lineup is something that's important to us. Melvin has been great. He was great for us in our success last year, but [we] ultimately felt like his skill set was a little bit redundant for the makeup of our roster."

Who starts in LF?
Ezequiel Carrera got the start in left field for Toronto's first game of the season vs. the Orioles on Monday afternoon, and part of that was because fly-ball pitcher Marco Estrada was on the mound for Toronto. Steve Pearce is expected to see a lot of time in left field this year, but for Opening Day, he was at first base instead of Justin Smoak.

Carrera in left field when Estrada pitches is a trend that could continue throughout the season. He also would be a candidate to start in left when J.A. Happ is on the mound, while Pearce might be the guy whenever Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez or Francisco Liriano throw.

"We got Pearcy because we want his bat in that lineup," manager John Gibbons said. "Marco's pitching, he's a fly-ball guy, we want our best defense, and [Carrera] can catch fly balls and run them down. That's where Carrera fits in. That's kind of the thinking there. ... If the ball goes up in the outfield -- and Marco gives up a lot of fly balls -- we got to make sure we catch them."

Sanchez good to go
Right-hander Sanchez threw a side session on Sunday afternoon, and he has been cleared to make his first start of the year on Saturday vs. the Rays. Sanchez had a blister develop on his right hand late in the spring, but it has since improved, and he has been cleared to take the mound for his previously scheduled start.

"He felt great," Atkins said of Sanchez's side session.

Pompey still not ready
Outfielder Dalton Pompey is still at least one week -- and likely more -- away from returning to the field. Pompey sustained a concussion while playing for Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic, and he still needs to pass a series of hurdles before being cleared to return. Once healthy, Pompey will begin the year with Triple-A Buffalo.

"We're hopeful that will be within weeks," Atkins said of Pompey's return. "I just don't think he'll be playing within one week. ... It's just a progression, and he is trending in the right direction."

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, Ryan Goins