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Jays manager says it may take all spring to figure out Toronto pitching

03/10/2015 01:07 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
The Blue Jays bullpen has a lot of moving parts this spring. How they fit together is still a bit of a mystery.

Manager John Gibbons concedes it may take the entire pre-season to figure out the right fit for Toronto's pitching.

"I think it's probably going to run down to the end, to be honest with you," he said recently. "Ideally you like to know a little bit sooner than that, midway through at least. But there's too many question-marks — not question-marks but too many opportunities guys I think will compete (for) until the end."

Gibbons has said a seven-man bullpen is his goal, so that there'll be as many bench options as possible.

The decision-making process may actually have got a little easier with the unfortunate news Tuesday that 23-year-old starter Marcus Stroman is expected to miss the entire season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during a fielding drill.

The injury may cause the Aaron Sanchez domino to fall. The Jays had been debating whether to use the hard-throwing 22-year-old as a closer, as he finished out last season, or fifth starter.

With Stroman out, the starting rotation consists of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison and two question-marks. Replacing Stroman with Sanchez takes care of one.

Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada will continue their battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Sanchez would like to start, but was willing to wait his chance — while saying all the right things.

"This year I think is really win-win for me, being such a young guy, wanting to be in the big leagues," he said prior to Stroman's injury.

"I think what it's going to come down to is what makes our team better." he added.

Brett Cecil wants the closer job but Gibbons seemed loath to lose such a left-handed weapon from other innings.

"I would love the role, I would love to have it but at the end of the day it's not me making the decision," said Cecil, who savours the adrenalin rush of the job. "I absolutely love being in the bullpen, I love the role I've been in the last two years. I think being the closer would be the next step."

Cecil is currently nursing an inflamed shoulder but is expected to resume throwing this week.

You can pencil in Todd Redmond and left-hander Aaron Loup for the 'pen alongside Cecil, with Steve Delabar likely to join them. If Sanchez starts, Estrada could make the bullpen.

Veteran Wilton Lopez has impressed so far, as have a pair of 20-year-olds: Dominican flame-thrower Miguel Castro and Mexican Roberto Osuna.

The Jays braintrust is taken by the six-foot-five Castro's combination of speed and control.

"A lot of the times you get those guys that throw that hard, they scatter (the ball) — especially when they're young," Gibbons said. "So he's kind of ahead of the game."

While Castro has just 39 appearances in the minors, Gibbons says the organization has shown more willingness recently to expose young talent to high levels.

"So if he's really really good this spring, there's an outside shot he could be (on) the team simply because he's advanced ... He's got a chance to be really really good."

Osuna, who lost 20 pounds in the off-season, has limited experience having missed almost all of last season due to Tommy John surgery.

"We're high on him too," said Gibbons.

Venezuelan Gregory Infante is another right-handed possibility.

Rob Rasmussen, Jayson Aquino and Canadians Jeff Francis and Andrew Albers are among the left-handers trying to make an impression.

The fact some players are out of options adds to the layers of the Toronto pitching onion.

Then there's former Cy Young Award-winner Johan Santana. The left-hander, who turns 36 Friday, is attempting a comeback but doing so at his own pace and won't be ready for Opening Day.

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