The Blue Jays optioned 5 more pitchers to their minor league camp on Tuesday, whittling down their bullpen options to a handful of choices with less than a week before Opening Day.
We’re not far from the first pitch of the MLB season being thrown, and as a result there will be several talented players cut from MLB teams this week. The Blue Jays have made most of their decisions, but the bullpen is an area where a few final choices will need to be made before April 3rd.
The announcement helps the Blue Jays move towards a more finalized bullpen picture, as several of the candidates listed above were receiving serious consideration, even into the Grapefruit League’s final week.
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With a group featuring Roberto Osuna, Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli, J.P. Howell, and Joe Smith appearing as locks in the bullpen, the final two spots appear to be a battle between Mike Bolsinger, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera. Bolsinger and Loup are both out of minor league options, perhaps giving them the leg up on Tepera and the rest of the candidates.
Mat Latos was another candidate for the long reliever’s job in the bullpen, but he was informed on the weekend that he wouldn’t be coming North with the club for Opening Day. Now that the other 5 arms have been optioned, the picture is a lot more clear.
Whether the Blue Jays decide to give Aaron Loup an extended try-out into the regular season, seems to be the only real question left. The left-handed specialist was a tremendous asset for the club from 2013-15, but has struggled ever since, never being able to find the form that helped him to a 2.47 ERA over 64 games as a 2nd year, 25 year old. He managed a 4.26 ERA in 6.1 spring innings, with a 1.46 WHIP, walking 5 batters and allowing 3 earned runs.
Loup would also represent the second left-hander in the bullpen for John Gibbons, but that could also be a role that goes to Tepera, who has pitched well against left-handed batters throughout his career, and holding them to a .212 batting average last season.