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KISSIMMEE, FLA.—Manager John Gibbons said the big reveal won’t come until Tuesday, but with less than a week until the Blue Jays open their season in the Bronx on April 6, there aren’t many roster questions left to answer.
Gibbons hinted his club will start the year with an eight-man bullpen, which is good news for Liam Hendriks and bad news for Ryan Goins. He also said they wouldn’t carry three catchers north, meaning Josh Thole is likely headed to triple-A Buffalo.
“You’ll find out everything tomorrow,” Gibbons said as reporters probed for more details.
Thole, R.A. Dickey’s personal knuckleball catcher, looks destined to join Barton unless general manager Alex Anthopoulos can pull off a trade for incumbent catcher Dioner Navarro over the next few days.
Meanwhile, rookie Devon Travis looks like he has won the starting second-base job, with Goins heading to Buffalo and Steve Tolleson joining Danny Valencia and Navarro on the Jays’ three-man bench. Goins is the Jays’ best defensive infielder and would be a solid backup off the bench, but he has options remaining, meaning he can be sent to the minors without having to clear waivers, whereas Tolleson cannot.
Likewise, by carrying eight relievers rather than the typical seven it allows the Jays to keep Hendriks — a useful spot starter they would love to have back in Triple-A Buffalo — without having to expose him to waivers, where he would likely be claimed.
Gibbons suggested the eight-man ’pen would not be a permanent fixture, saying it’s easier to play with a shorter bench of position players in the early part of the season. “Your regulars don’t need as much rest (and) there’s an off-day on the second day of the season.”
Regarding the rotation, Mark Buehrle already spilled the beans Sunday that he would start Friday’s exhibition game in Montreal and would make his first regular season start a week from Friday in Baltimore. That leaves R.A. Dickey most likely to receive the opening day nod, followed by Drew Hutchison and Daniel Norris in New York, with Buehrle and Aaron Sanchez following in Baltimore.
This year required an unusual amount of decision-making for the Jays, who, despite adding a pair of former all-stars in Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, still had major question marks in several spots on the diamond.
A recent study by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh found the Jays have the most unbalanced offence in the league, given the dramatic drop-off between the marquee names at the top of their order and the unproven rookies at the bottom.
“Regardless of the number, you don’t enjoy (cutting players) because it means somebody’s not going to be in the big leagues,” Gibbons said. “We all have hearts. We feel for these guys. Most of us have all been in their shoes at one time or another. That’s never easy. But it’s still a business and we’ve got to put together the best team we can.”
Also on Monday the Jays released veteran infielder Ramon Santiago, who was with the team only on a minor-league deal but looked primed to open the season as the backup infielder until he broke his collarbone earlier this month. Since Santiago has more than six years of major-league service time he would have been entitled to a $ 100,000 retention bonus if he opened the season on the disabled list. By releasing him, the Jays relieve themselves of that obligation.