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Bullpen competition heats up in Toronto camp

Latos, Schultz among pitchers angling to make Opening Day 'pen
MLB.com @gregorMLB

Glenn Sparkman will not be ready for Opening Day because of a fractured right thumb, but plenty of candidates remain for the final two spots in Toronto's bullpen.

Roberto Osuna, Jason Grilli, J.P. Howell, Joe Smith and Joe Biagini appear locked into roles but outside of that group there are plenty of question marks. A large group of pitchers, most without options, are in the mix for spots and the decisions made in the weeks ahead will greatly impact the organization's depth.

Glenn Sparkman will not be ready for Opening Day because of a fractured right thumb, but plenty of candidates remain for the final two spots in Toronto's bullpen.

Roberto Osuna, Jason Grilli, J.P. Howell, Joe Smith and Joe Biagini appear locked into roles but outside of that group there are plenty of question marks. A large group of pitchers, most without options, are in the mix for spots and the decisions made in the weeks ahead will greatly impact the organization's depth.

Toronto has to find the right balance of taking the best roster north while at the same time keeping all of its options open. Here's a closer look at where things currently stand:

RHP Mat Latos: Latos was the last person on this list to join the Blue Jays, but he seems to have a pretty good chance at making the team as a long reliever. He's on a non-guaranteed deal but offers length out of the 'pen and protection in case any of the starters go down with an injury. Latos is also off to a good start this spring, pitching a pair of scoreless innings on Friday afternoon. He's an early favorite for one of the two jobs.

RHP Bo Schultz: Schultz was a key contributor to the bullpen in 2015 but injuries derailed the start of his 2016 season and he never really got back on track. Schultz is now out of options on his contract and cannot be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers. That could impact Toronto's decision this spring, but there are others on this list who face similar obstacles as well.

Video: TB@TOR: Schultz retires Souza Jr. to escape a jam

RHP Mike Bolsinger: Bolsinger is another out-of-options pitcher vying for a job. He was considered the favorite for long relief until Latos signed a deal early in camp. There's a scenario in which the Blue Jays could opt to keep both relievers but that means Bolsinger would have to beat out everyone else on this list and that will be easier said than done. 

RHP Chris Smith: Smith emerged on the scene late last season following a successful year with Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. He posted a 1.93 ERA over 47 appearances at those levels and even though Smith, 28, is too old to be considered a prospect, there are plenty of people inside the organization who are singing his praises. Some believe he could develop into a key setup man but whether the organization will commit to him -- and as a result cut ties with an out-of-options pitcher -- remains to be seen.

LHP Aaron Loup: Loup was once expected to make this team as its primary lefty reliever but that changed when the club signed Howell late in the offseason. Loup now seems destined for another year bouncing between the Majors and Minors. If Howell struggles, that could change but right now he's on the outside looking in.

The others: The list of possible candidates doesn't end there. Danny Barnes, Ryan Tepera, Matt Dermody and Gavin Floyd also will get long looks this spring. Barnes figures to start in the Minors but there's a good chance he will figure into the club's plans throughout the season. Floyd remains a dark-horse candidate to win a job, while Tepera and Dermody are expected to open the year in 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.

Toronto Blue Jays, Mat Latos