Blue Jays manager John Gibbons says his goal is to head north with a seven-man bullpen. But the exact number is another Toronto pitching question yet to be answered.
“It could go either way — eight or seven — depending on how things stack up and whether we want to risk losing somebody,” Gibbons said Friday prior to an exhibition game against the visiting Boston Red Sox. “Bottom line is what makes the team stronger.
“Ideally you just want seven because you want to strengthen that bench a little bit. But it could end up being eight. That wouldn’t be ideal but that may be the way it ends up.”
Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond and Jeremy Jeffress are out of options, meaning the team could lose them if they are sent down.
Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar and Dustin McGowan are likely to form the core of the bullpen. Rogers could also end up there in long relief.
On the other end, Toronto has to sort out the back end of its pitching rotation in the absence of any new talent.
R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow are expected to hold down the first three spots in the rotation. Barring a trade, Nos. 4 and 5 will come from Drew Hutchison, Ricky Romero, J.A. Happ, Rogers, Redmond, Kyle Drabek, Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin with the first three at the front of the pack, barring injury.
McGowan has said he sees himself as a starter but, thanks to a stomach bug that kept him out, has only pitched four innings this spring.
“I’m basically looking at ‘Are they throwing strikes? Are they throwing quality strikes? How does their stuff look?’ ” said Gibbons. “It’s not all results. (Although) that definitely helps.
“But there are some factors in spring training that lead to runs sometimes.”
Gibbons did give a vote of confidence to new catcher Dioner Navarro.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Gibbons said. “He’s still learning (the pitchers). He’s a veteran guy so he has a pretty good idea ... He’s finding out what they can do. He knows what kind of pitches they have but (he’s) finding out what they can do in certain situations.
“All indications, everything I’m hearing is they all love throwing to him and that’s the big thing.”