The Blue Jays begin the season as one of the favorites in the American League, and one of Toronto’s strongest units could very well be their bullpen, but questions remain.
Pitching depth is an important aspect in baseball, especially in the pen.
The potential relief pitching staff for Toronto has a chance to have six or seven solid arms.
And it all begins with the setup man and closer.
“If (Casey) Janssen holds the closer’s job, and (Sergio) Santos remains healthy and regains his control (his command has been spotty this spring), then Santos could be very important as the setup man,” said National Post baseball writer John Lott.
Santos has a chance to prove himself, after playing in six games last season because of season-ending surgery.
“Assuming Janssen is effective in the ninth, Santos might be best used in high-pressure situations in the seventh or eighth innings,” said Lott. “If he is good at that, he could become just as valuable as a closer.”
Janssen has missed most of spring training because of shoulder surgery, but the right-hander, baring any setbacks, should be available on opening day.
“Janssen struck out all three batters he faced today in his second big-league game of the spring,” said Lott. “Afterward, he (manager John Gibbons) said he is optimistic he will be ready for the opener.”
With an apparent five-man starting rotation, where does that leave J.A. Happ, who could very well start on many teams?
“Unclear right now,” said Lott. “With the team’s apparent commitment to Ricky Romero as the fifth starter, it appears that Happ’s only chance to make the team would be as a middle reliever.”
Happ has pitched 19 innings this spring, and allowed four runs.
“Given that Brett Lawrie’s injury has put him on the DL to start the season, and the team’s decision to add an extra arm to the bullpen while Lawrie is out, Happ may well start the year as a reliever,” said Lott. “Happ’s future after Lawrie comes back might well depends on how he has performed out of the pen and how effective (Ricky) Romero has been as a starter.”
Manager John Gibbons said he is comfortable with his bullpen as the season begins.
“(Gibbons) has not announced the bullpen composition, so it’s impossible for an outsider to judge,” said Lott. “ “Comfortable” is one thing; “confident” in all seven (or eight) guys is another. With Janssen, Santos, (Darren) Oliver, (Steve) Delabar, (Esmil) Rogers and (Aaron) Loup as the top six, this shapes up as a very good bullpen.”
But Rogers, acquired from the Miami Marlins in the offseason, has had a rough spring.
“Inconsistent,” said Lott. “His paradox: 14 strikeouts and 13 hits in 10 1/3 innings.”
With the regular season beginning a week from today, the bullpen could provide a big spark for the Blue Jays.