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ROBERT MacLEOD

Blue Jays bullpen takes shape Add to ...

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has likely concluded his bullpen makeover with the signing Monday of free-agent veteran reliever Darren Oliver.

Now, if Anthopoulos can add another proven pitcher to his rotation all would be fine as the American League club heads down to Florida next month for the start of spring training.

Anthopoulos would not come right out and admit the addition of another starter was on his list of priorities heading into the 2012 Major League Baseball season. But you get the sense, listening to his comments, that if he doesn’t sign a free-agent pitcher in time for camp, he’ll do all he can to work a trade.

“The priority is always to make the team better,” the GM said when asked if adding a starter was now high on his to-do list. “That goes without saying. Again, that can’t be forced and it has to be at the right price.

“There’s a lot of things that we could have done this past off-season [just] to say that we did it. But I don’t ultimately believe that it would have been good signings or good trades for us. I think it would have been bad.”

The performance of the bullpen hampered the Blue Jays last season, yielding 25 blown saves (tied for 25th worst in the majors).

Exit Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, via free agency, and enter Sergio Santos, a closer who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for prospect Nestor Molina last November.

In December, the Blue Jays reacquired veteran reliever Jason Frasor in a trade for a couple of minor leaguers. And Monday, Anthopoulos continued with the official addition of Oliver.

The 41-year-old agreed to a one-year deal worth $4-million (U.S.), with a club option valued at $3-million for the following season.

To make room on the 40-man roster, infielder Mark Teahen (.190, one home run, three RBI in 27 games for Toronto in 2011) was designated for assignment.

The $4-million guaranteed contract for Oliver makes the left-hander the most expensive free-agent acquisition Anthopoulos has made in his three years as Toronto GM.

Playing last year for the AL champion Texas Rangers, Oliver stuck out 44 and walked just 11 in 51 innings, and finished with a stingy 2.29 earned-run average. It is anticipated he will be one of the primary setup men for Santos, along with Casey Janssen and Frasor.

The Jays are not overly worried about how much Oliver, an 18-year veteran, potentially has left in the tank.

“I think you always have to be concerned,” Anthopoulos said. “But again, the one thing that he’s shown is, year in and year out, he continues to be able to get the job done.”

With the addition of Oliver, Anthopoulos says he is pretty much set with his bullpen moving forward.

“I think we’re fairly happy,” the GM said. “I think that we’re done. But we still continue to explore a few things here and there. From a relief standpoint, it’s probably a little bit more geared to the trade market than the free-agent market.

“But we’re still open-minded if the right free agent might fall in our laps.”

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