As the Blue Jays hold their first official workouts of spring training, here are five more under-the-radar stories to follow over the next six weeks
A starvation for live baseball has ended as the Blue Jays pitchers and catchers hold their first day of official workouts today in Dunedin, Florida.
After a four-month offseason that has felt simultaneously like a day and a decade, the storylines surrounding the Blue Jays can now be fuelled by some level of on-field reality.
The leading headlines are already established, and at this point, it’s likely that you’re all too familiar with them. From the fifth starter’s job to Aaron Sanchez‘s role, the contracts of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, or the battles at closer and in left field, you’ve heard the story. Perhaps twice.
We’ll have those topics covered for you throughout camp, of course, but ahead we look at five other interesting stories to watch over the next six weeks that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.
First up, a bigger-picture look at the Blue Jays bullpen.
5 – The Blue Jays preferred bullpen construction
Individual performance will tilt the scales as the Blue Jays piece together their opening day bullpen, but it won’t steer the ship alone.
The outlook of the starting rotation, preference of John Gibbons, and flexibility of the club’s positional bench players will play a strong factor in the architecture of this ‘pen. This isn’t a player-specific issue, but more based on which roles the club would prefer to have.
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Just last season, Toronto opened the year with an eight-man bullpen. Marco Estrada, Liam Hendriks, Todd Redmond, Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro from the right side were joined by Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and Colt Hynes from the left side.
If the Jays remain uncertain as to who will claim that final bullpen spot, it’s possible they do open the season with eight relievers once again. This would buy them a handful of games with a still-fresh positional group to test out some options on the big stage.
Opening with both Estrada and Redmond last season gave the Jays excess length out of the bullpen, so is that something we could see again? Especially with an uncertain fifth spot in the rotation and J.A. Happ‘s past struggles to work deep into ball games, perhaps that is necessary early on. But is more than one arm capable of throwing multiple innings needed? If so, does Roberto Osuna qualify?
Then, there is the lefty conversation. A group of five right-handers and two left-handers is traditionally what a major league team runs with, but a strong camp from Chad Girodo, Pat Venditte, Scott Diamond or another dark horse could change that landscape again. Especially given that Cecil’s overall dominance doesn’t leave him stuck as a classic “lefty”.
None of this will trump player performance (or, at least it shouldn’t), but it will frame the parameters within which they’re competing.
Next: #4 - The multifaceted story of the knuckleballer