Blue Jays Spring Training: Roster Spot Battles Update

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Aug 20, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons watches the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

As we get deeper into the month of March and with Opening Day just over two weeks away, there were a few key developments in Blue Jays Spring Training camp this week that provided some more hints as to what the opening day roster will look like come April 6th in New York. A combination of manager John Gibbons being quite open with the media, notable performances by prospects and (of course) injuries have provided some more clarity on the strategic direction the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays. Here at Jays Journal, we continue to monitor 4 key roster battles and the status of a few positions that are up for grabs in the Grapefruit League.

Fourth Outfielder:

Although signs are encouraging that Michael Saunders will be healthy for opening day, it’s questionable whether once healthy if he’ll have enough time to be ready to face big league pitching in early April. Kevin Pillar has essentially already won the fourth outfielder job with his performance in Spring Training and the remaining outfielders in Jays camp are now in competition for a reserve spot for early April should Saunders not make it back in time for opening day. 

With Pillar sidelined this week after a sneezing-induced oblique strain, there have been plenty of opportunities for Dayan Viciedo and Caleb Gindl to make an impression. Although Gindl has slowed down in the past week (hitting 3-12 since March 15th), he still has posted a very respectable .353/.410/.618 slash line thus far in the Grapefruit League. Gindl may have the advantage over Viciedo by virtue of hitting left, and has done enough to impress John Gibbons and co. to earn the 3rd most at bats for the Jays in Spring Training.

Meanwhile, after returning from a foot infection that caused him to miss nearly a week of action, Viciedo has reminded Jays fans exactly what he offers as a swing-happy power hitter (no home runs yet, but 4 doubles) who strikes out a lot.  Viciedo has yet to record a single walk and his .269 OBP (equal to his batting average) is less than impressive. When the final cuts are made in early April, it appears that John Gibbons and the front office will need to make a decision whether to sacrifice outs for home run power in Viciedo or go with Gindl who has shown a far more balanced approach at the plate but is not the home run threat that can be very valuable in hitter friendly AL East ballparks.

R.A Dickey’s Catcher:

Although manager John Gibbons pointed out that the decision whether Martin will catch R.A. Dickey full time during the regular season is still “wide open”, Martin has continued to make strides to acquaint himself with the tricky knuckleball. Yesterday, Martin made adjustments to drop to one knee behind the plate during Dickey’s start against the Philadelphia Phillies and appeared to be very comfortable. By my count, he only had trouble with two pitches and managed to keep everything in the dirt in front of him. 

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Dickey has continued to praise Martin for his effort to learn the nuances of catching the knuckleball and despite Gibbon’s comments, the Quebec native appears to be the front runner to catch Dickey in the regular season. Martin has developed a strong rapport with Dickey, who has so far looked strong in Spring Training (only giving up 2 earned runs in 12 innings). It would be a bit of a let-down if the decision is made to keep Josh Thole on the roster solely to catch Dickey as he contributes so little to the team’s offensive output.

Next: Roster Battles: 5th Starter & 2B