Three key questions facing Blue Jays at camp
Club must settle battle in bullpen, at second base and in rotation
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will arrive at Spring Training on Sunday to begin the process of answering several key questions about their 25-man roster.
Toronto has aspirations of the postseason, but unlike a lot of the other contenders, its roster is far from set. There are competitions in the rotation, bullpen, second base and perhaps even in center field if Dalton Pompey struggles early.
That should make for an unusually eventful spring with plenty at stake. It's also a stark contrast from each of the past two years, when the Blue Jays reported to Dunedin, Fla., with a relatively set roster.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons will have to use his time wisely to evaluate a large number of candidates at several spots. There are three question marks in particular, though, that will have a major influence on how Toronto starts the season.
In the days leading up to the start of Spring Training, MLB.com has been running a six-part series that takes a close look at every aspect of all 30 teams. This final installment, called "Three Questions," examines the biggest issues to watch for in camp.
1. Who will be the Blue Jays' closer?
Toronto is expected to audition left-hander Brett Cecil and rookie right-hander Aaron Sanchez for the role. Part of the decision will be based on performance in the spring, but perhaps even more important is the overall configuration of the bullpen. The Blue Jays also need quality relievers in their middle innings, and unless Steve Delabar returns to form, there isn't an obvious choice for a setup role from the right side. If everything else is equal, that could give Cecil an inside shot at the closer's job, while Sanchez could partner with left-hander Aaron Loup in middle relief.
2. Who will be the starting second baseman?
The Blue Jays will have as many as six players competing for a job at second base this spring. One of the biggest challenges Gibbons will face in the coming weeks is finding a way to give everyone a fair shot at the job. Out of the six competitors, there are likely three that the Blue Jays would seriously consider. Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins and Devon Travis are the three favorites, while Steve Tolleson and Ramon Santiago appear better suited to compete for a spot on the bench. Munenori Kawasaki also is technically in the picture, but he is expected to open the year with Triple-A Buffalo. The two to watch in this race are Izturis and Travis. Izturis will have to prove he's fully recovered from last year's knee injury, while Travis will be trying to prove he's ready to make the jump from Double-A.
3. Who will win the final spot in the starting rotation?
This race competition will be between veteran right-hander Marco Estrada and rookie left-hander Daniel Norris. Estrada has more experience, but his numbers last season in Milwaukee were much better as a reliever. The biggest decision here is whether the Blue Jays think Norris is ready for the big leagues, or if he would be better served starting the year in Triple-A Buffalo. It's worth noting that Marcus Stroman faced a similar situation last spring, and he began the season in the Minors, but it wasn't long before he got the call to the big leagues. Toronto could take a similar approach with Norris, and at least temporarily hand the fifth spot to Estrada.