DUNEDIN, Fla. – The Toronto Blue Jays will open the season with Roberto Osuna as their closer, with Arnold Leon, Joe Biagini and Ryan Tepera also in the bullpen and Ezequiel Carrera opening as the fourth outfielder.
Manager John Gibbons made the announcement Wednesday morning ahead of the team’s Grapefruit League finale in Fort Myers against the Minnesota Twins.
The choice of Osuna as closer was among the most difficult decisions faced by the Blue Jays, although they feel comfortable with either in the role.
“We like both of them, but I have a familiarity with Osuna,” Gibbons said. “We all do here. We’ve got some flexibility if we decide to change some things around. As we get further along in the season we can do that.”
Osuna finished 2015 as the club’s stopper and his stuff this spring left many convinced he should remain in the role, even though Drew Storen’s experience was seen as an asset. Storen has performed well as both a closer and a set-up man in the past, and will be called upon to finish out games, too.
Marco Estrada and Aaron Loup will open the season on the disabled list, creating room on the roster for Leon, Biagini and Tepera. Estrada will return in time to start April 10 at home against the Boston Red Sox leaving one of them on the bubble.
Leon is out of options while Tepera and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who did not make the team, are not.
“There’s so many guys that had good springs,” said Gibbons. “There were really some tough decisions. But we’re in a position where we want to win something this year so if we need to make changes as we go along, we’ll bring the best guys along.”
Biagini, a Rule 5 pick, must remain on the big-league roster all season or be offered back to the San Francisco Giants for $25,000. The teams can also try to work out a trade.
Leon had a solid spring and will share in the middle-relief work with Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez, the latter of whom may also see some higher leverage relief work.
Tepera, a reverse-split righty, throws hard and thanks to a slight mechanical adjustment in his delivery, has improved the depth on his cutter to righties.
Carrera returns as the fourth outfielder and was helped by being out of options over Darrell Ceciliani, who was optioned to triple-A Buffalo despite having a superior camp.
Just 25, Ceciliani still has some room to develop as a player and should benefit from playing regularly at Buffalo rather than being used sparingly in Toronto. The Blue Jays envision him on their roster at some point this year.
Shi Davidi Sportsnet.com