Stroman, Sanchez among Spring Training first-timers
Blue Jays invite 60; competition to be found for fifth spot of rotation, 'pen, bench
TORONTO -- Right-handers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are among those who are set to make their Major League Spring Training debut when the Blue Jays officially open camp on Feb. 16.
Toronto has extended invitations to 60 players in advance of the upcoming Grapefruit League season. The group includes 29 pitchers, seven catchers, eight outfielders and 16 infielders.
There will be a total of 20 non-roster invitees at the start of camp. The number will slowly dwindle until the club heads north with its final roster for a pair of exhibition games against the Mets in Montreal on March 28-29.
Stroman and Sanchez are two of the non-roster pitchers who received invites. Stroman made an appearance during last year's camp, but this will be the first time he spends all of his time at the start of Spring Training with the Major League roster.
The 22-year-old is expected to start the season in the Minor Leagues, but he has an outside chance to compete for the final spot in the starting rotation. Stroman is coming off an impressive season with Double-A New Hampshire, which included a 9-5 record, 3.30 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings.
Sanchez won't be in the mix for a job out of camp, but a strong showing could go a long way in fast-tracking his route to the big leagues. The club's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, will start the season in either Double-A or Triple-A, but he might be in line for a promotion at some point this year.
A group of players is already at the club's Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Fla., but there's still more than a week before camp officially gets underway. Pitchers and catchers will undergo their medicals on Feb. 16, and position players will then follow suit on Feb. 20.
Unless the Blue Jays sign another pitcher before Spring Training, the biggest competition this spring can be found in the starting rotation. R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle and J.A. Happ are locked in, but there's a very large group competing for the final spot.
Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin and Stroman are the leading candidates, but it's also possible that Jeremy Jeffress and Dustin McGowan will receive an opportunity as well. Jeffress and McGowan both spent 2013 as relievers but will be stretched out during camp.
The other main competition can be found in the bullpen. Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil have no reason to worry, but the final three spots remain uncertain. Left-hander Aaron Loup also should have a spot, and Neil Wagner deserves an opportunity based on last year's performance, but the fact that there's an option remaining on his contract hurts the cause.
That could mean there are two spots up for grabs. Luis Perez is out of options and cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without being exposed to waivers, but he's not the only one. Rogers, Redmond, McGowan and Jeffress also are out of options, so the competition in the starting rotation will have a direct impact on the bullpen as well.
The other spot of interest can be found on the bench as the Blue Jays search for someone to platoon with Adam Lind at designated hitter. Moises Sierra, who is out of options, is the early favorite but likely will need to prove he can handle first base in an emergency situation.
Infielder Brent Morel or Kevin Pillar also could receive some consideration, while it's also possible the Blue Jays will add someone else into the mix before the end of camp.
There will be some very tough decisions for manager John Gibbons and the rest of his coaching staff in the upcoming weeks. Most of the roster appears set, but with so many candidates for just a handful of open spots, it should make for a very eventful camp.
Here's a closer look at the full list of players attending camp:
Catchers: A.J. Jimenez, Mike Nickeas, Josh Thole, Dioner Navarro, Erik Kratz, Jack Murphy, Derrick Chung
Infielders: Jonathan Diaz, Maicer Izturis, Jose Reyes, Morel, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Dan Johnson, Ryan Goins, Steve Tolleson, Lind, Jarad Goedert, Chris Getz, Adam LaRoche, Munenori Kawasaki, Andy Burns, Kevin Nolan
Outfielders: Anthony Gose, Pillar, Sierra, Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera, Ricardo Nanita, Kenny Wilson
Pitchers: Drabek, Santos, Morrow, Ricky Romero, Cecil, McGowan, Rogers, Jeffress, Nolin, Hutchison, Mickey Storey, Sanchez, Dickey, Janssen, Wagner, Perez, Happ, Delabar, John Stilson, Stroman, Tomo Ohka, Buehrle, Juan Perez, Redmond, Rob Rasmussen, Loup, Chad Jenkins, Marcus Walden, Deck McGuire