Blue Jays Spring Training: Roster Spot Battles Update

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Mar 4, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) doubles scoring catcher Dioner Navarro (not pictured) during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout Spring Training, Jays Journal will be keeping a keen eye on 4 key roster spot battles up for grabs in Dunedin.  Although still very early, through four games there have been a few interesting developments that have provided some clarity as to what the Opening Day roster may look like.

Fourth Outfielder:

Over the past week, Kevin Pillar appears to have cemented his status as the favourite to win the fourth outfielder job. Pillar kicked off his campaign by scoring the Jays’ first runs of Spring Training with a two-run home run against Pittsburgh hard-throwing reliever Stolmy Pimentel. Since then, Pillar has only hit .200 but has shown some improved plate discipline by having yet to record a strikeout. It’s still very, very early, but Pillar has looked good at the plate thus far. 

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

Defensively, Pillar has switched between center and left field and once again has shown his versatility to play multiple positions in the outfield. On Wednesday, Pillar had an outstanding diving catch that robbed Steve Lombardozzi of extra bases and demonstrated his abilities that will make him a good late-inning defensive substitution off the bench once the regular season rolls around.

Although it was reported that Michael Saunders may be ready for Opening Day, there is every chance that Pillar may be the starter in left field come April 6th in Yankee Stadium. If that is the case, the Jays may explore keeping an extra outfielder on the roster until Saunders is ready for game action. So far in Spring Training, Chris Dickerson has shown a patient approach at the plate and ability to get on base (3 walks in 4 at-bats). Other than Dickerson, there haven’t been any noteworthy performances by other reserve outfielder candidates. It’s probably still too early to tell if Pillar actually does have strong competition for the fourth outfielder spot.

R.A. Dickey’s Catcher:

Though R.A. Dickey kicked off his Spring Training in impressive style – recording 2 innings of shutout ball with three strikeouts and only one walk – it appears as though Russell Martin’s acquaintance with the knuckleball is still a work in progress. It’s reported that Martin appeared to have trouble with at least 5 or 6 of Dickey’s knuckleballs and he admitted in his post-game interview that he is still getting familiar with the pitches movement.

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It is an encouraging sign for Jays fans that Dickey appears to be all in on giving Martin an opportunity to prove himself capable of being his everyday catcher. Throughout Spring Training, the two have been inseparable and Dickey has praised Martin for his effort to learn how to catch the pitch and his progress so far. Even Josh Thole has been impressed with Martin’s determination to catch the knuckleball and has been providing him with some tips and pointers on how best to position himself behind the plate when catching Dickey.

For Jays fans, it’s a great sign that management is giving Martin plenty of time in Spring Training to win the job. Even more encouraging is that Dickey seems happy with his progress and that Martin is learning from the only man who’s been able to prove himself capable of handling the backstop duties for the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner.

Next: Rotation & 2B Battles