Blue Jays set rotation for first 3 spring games

Lawrence to start opener, with Latos, Oberholtzer due for split-squad matchups Sunday

Blue Jays set rotation for first 3 spring games

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Right-hander Mat Latos, one of the most intriguing arms in camp, will pitch when the Blue Jays play their Grapefruit League home opener Sunday against the Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, manager John Gibbons said Thursday.

Latos was signed to a Minor League contract just a week ago. With the Padres and Reds from 2009-14, he went 60-45 with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP. He's still just 29, but he has battled injuries and ineffectiveness the last two seasons with the Marlins, Dodgers, Angels, White Sox and Nationals.

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Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sparkman could be Toronto's next Rule 5 success

Blue Jays hoping strong track record continues with right-hander

Sparkman could be Toronto's next Rule 5 success

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Around the Blue Jays, the lore of the Rule 5 Draft is handed down from generation to generation.

How George Bell was plucked from the Phillies in 1980 and went on to become the American League's Most Valuable Player in '87. How Willie Upshaw, taken from the Yankees' organization, became the first Blue Jay to drive in 100 runs and the first baseman for the franchise's first division winner in '85. How Kelly Gruber and Manny Lee formed the left side of the infield for Toronto's first World Series championship in '92.

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Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Elder statesman Grilli: 'I've always bet on me'

Competitive fire still burns for 40-year-old reliever still eyeing World Series title

Elder statesman Grilli: 'I've always bet on me'

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Bartolo Colon, who will turn 44 in May, is the oldest active big leaguer at the moment. Ichiro is seven months younger. R.A. Dickey is 42, and Koji Uehara will get there on Opening Day.

Then there's Blue Jays reliever Jason Grilli. He turned 40 last November, which is impressive all by itself. Not only that, he made 46 relief appearances for the Blue Jays, allowed fewer hits (28) than innings pitched (42) and had a 3.64 earned run average. Against a backdrop of contemporaries like David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, David Ross, Joel Peralta and (apparently) A.J. Pierzynski retiring after last season, he's still going strong.

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Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Smoak could earn, run with starting job

Consistent playing time may help lead to a bounce-back season

Smoak could earn, run with starting job

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Who's on first? The Blue Jays are hoping Justin Smoak will grab hold of the starting job and not let go.

After sharing time for the past two seasons with Chris Colabello, Smoak now has the chance to own the job all to himself.

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Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Upton brings rare feat into 13th season

Upton brings rare feat into 13th season

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Call them Baseball's Elite Eight. You have Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, Wil Myers, Jose Altuve, Ian Desmond, Paul Goldschmidt and ... Melvin Upton Jr.?

Many would be surprised Upton would be in such elite company, but the Blue Jays outfielder joined the others last season as exclusive members of baseball's 20/20 club, hitting at least 20 home runs while stealing 20 bases.

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Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com based in Dunedin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blue Jays not concerned with strikeout rate

Blue Jays not concerned with strikeout rate

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' offensive dropoff last season was startling. After ranking second in the Major Leagues in hitting in 2015, they fell to 23rd -- sliding from second in the American League to 12th.

A lot of factors contributed as the team's batting average, home run and RBI totals were all down, but one area stood out -- strikeouts.

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Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Happ honing 'explosiveness' in workouts

Less running and more strength building are goals for left-hander, other Blue Jays starters

Happ honing 'explosiveness' in workouts

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- For decades, running has been a key part of pitcher's conditioning programs. And, for decades, some have questioned the practice.

During the 1960s, Johnny Sain was the pitching coach for five of the 10 American League pennant winners. He also once famously observed, "You don't run the ball up to the plate." After Steve Carlton won one of his Cy Young Awards with the Phillies, he created a minor kerfuffle by refusing to run the following spring.

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Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Martin: Salty 'somebody that I can rely on'

Backstop tandem will benefit Blue Jays, give both players adequate rest

Martin: Salty 'somebody that I can rely on'

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In Russell Martin's second full season in the big leagues, 2008 with the Dodgers, he played in 155 games and was behind the plate in a remarkable 149 of them. "It used to be an ego thing, that I wanted to play every day," the Blue Jays catcher said before Tuesday's workout.

Now that he's 34, Martin still wants to play every day. He just realizes that it's not always the best idea for him or the team.

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Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blue Jays hope Liriano continues to flourish

Post-trade, pitcher boosted by change of scenery, Martin's encouragement

Blue Jays hope Liriano continues to flourish

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- When Francisco Liriano was traded from the Pirates to the Blue Jays on Aug. 1, his uniform wasn't the only thing that changed.

For Pittsburgh, Liriano had a 5.46 ERA in 21 starts. With Toronto, he had a 2.92 ERA in 10 appearances, eight of them starts, one big reason why the Blue Jays made it to the postseason.

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Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Who is Blue Jays' Opening Day starter?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions

Inbox: Who is Blue Jays' Opening Day starter?

Who is going to be the Opening Day starter on the road and at home?
-- Liz, Toronto

The Blue Jays have a few different directions they can take here, but odds are that Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ will get the call for Opening Day and the home opener. Toronto has two off-days during the first week of the season, which means whoever starts Opening Day likely gets the finale in Tampa Bay on April 9 with the No. 2 starting the home opener on April 11.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stroman expecting a dominant year on mound

Stroman expecting a dominant year on mound

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman has been an Opening Day starter. He's also started five postseason games, including the win-or-go-home American League Wild Card match-up against the Orioles last October. Toronto won.

Still, the 25-year-old -- now two years removed from surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee -- indicated after Monday's workout that he believes the best is yet to come.

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Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pearce gives Blue Jays options in field

Veteran focusing on getting healthy by Opening Day

Pearce gives Blue Jays options in field

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Steve Pearce has spent the last four seasons in the American League East, playing for the Orioles and Rays. So he saw a lot of the Blue Jays. And he liked what he saw.

"They were a tough team," he said Monday after the Blue Jays completed their workout. "You had to bring it against them every night. They knew it. They're a cocky team. They're fun to play against."

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Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blue Jays say rotation is in league of its own

Blue Jays say rotation is in league of its own

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays weren't quite sure what to make of their rotation going into last season. They knew there were some talented arms in camp but not much else.

And now?

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Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Donaldson could miss 2-3 weeks with calf strain

Donaldson could miss 2-3 weeks with calf strain

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson says he could miss two to three weeks of Spring Training due to a right calf strain he sustained on Friday.

Addressing reporters for the first time, Donaldson said he had been feeling "phenomenal" in prior workouts, but he felt something grab in his muscle while running sprints. The three-time All-Star was walking with the assistance of crutches in the clubhouse on Sunday to take pressure off his leg, and he expects to remain on them for a few days.

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Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Breaking down the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects

Toronto's farm system poised to play bigger role in near future

Breaking down the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects

A late-season surge up the American League East standings thrust the Blue Jays into the postseason for the second time in as many years in 2016. They continued to surge in October, beating the Orioles in dramatic fashion in the AL Wild Card Game, and then knocking off the Rangers to advance to the AL Championship Series, where they were defeated by the World Series-bound Indians in five games.

The Blue Jays did all of that with minimal help from their farm system, as only one player on the team's 2017 Top 30 prospects list, right-handed reliever Danny Barnes, enters the season with big league experience. That should change, though, with an aging team set to give way to an inevitable turnover in the coming years.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Morales admires Blue Jays' 'intensity on field'

Slugger hoping for smooth transition into Toronto's lineup

Morales admires Blue Jays' 'intensity on field'

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- When Kendrys Morales hit free agency this past November, there was never a doubt in his mind where he wanted to go.

Following the conclusion of a torrid second season in Kansas City -- in which the designated hitter/first baseman became the first Royals player since 2000 to hit 30 home runs -- Morales and his agent met with Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins to discuss Morales joining Toronto.

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Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

For Loup, Glove Day like Christmas

For Loup, Glove Day like Christmas

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The start of Spring Training is always an exciting time for Blue Jays reliever Aaron Loup. There's seeing the familiar faces of coaches and teammates around the clubhouse after an offseason apart. There's getting back to work in preparation for the grind of a fast-approaching regular season.

And then there's Wilson Glove Day, which Loup compares to the thrill of opening presents on Christmas morning.

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Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Travis close to full health, working with Tulo

Second baseman nearing return to field after minor offseason knee surgery

Travis close to full health, working with Tulo

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis says he's close to full health after having offseason surgery to remove a flap of cartilage from his right knee.

Travis, who missed time during the 2016 American League Division Series and Championship Series with a bone bruise in his knee, said the key is being smart and using the spring to work his way into shape.

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Corey Long is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pearce 'checking every box' in surgery recovery

Offseason acquisition could be Blue Jays' Opening Day starter in left field

Pearce 'checking every box' in surgery recovery

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce is ahead of projections in recovering from surgery on his right forearm and could be the team's Opening Day starter in left field.

Pearce, who signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Blue Jays in December, had surgery in late September with a recovery time of 4-6 months. He was expected to be limited to just first base in April.

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Corey Long is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bautista arrives at camp with same approach

OF thinks playing WBC '17 games will help prepare him for season

Bautista arrives at camp with same approach

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Introduced, jokingly, as the Blue Jays' "new signing", Jose Bautista made his first appearance with the media at Blue Jays camp on Friday, the official report date for position players. The man whose offseason roller coaster resulted in a one-year, $18.5 million guarantee with his original club quickly did what he could to diffuse the narrative surrounding him.

Is Joey Bats motivated to prove his doubters -- or, more accurately, the industry that denied him a more lucrative financial commitment -- wrong in 2017? Not in his public estimation.

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Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Left field among 5 storylines at spring camp

Upton, Carrera and Pompey in mix; Toronto 'pen has spots up for grabs

Left field among 5 storylines at spring camp

The Blue Jays begin Spring Training with a roster that is closer to being finalized than most years, but that doesn't mean the camp will be void of interesting storylines.

There are questions surrounding left field and the bullpen. A starting job at first base could be up for grabs. The rotation and the heart of the lineup are firmly in place, but the secondary pieces remain in flux.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Bautista fits in with Blue Jays' culture

Toronto's team full of players with underdog backgrounds

Bautista fits in with Blue Jays' culture

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- For Jose Bautista, the offseason was long, strange and ultimately unrewarding. Or at least, relative to that $150 million figure that was floated around exactly one year ago.

But it brought Joey Bats back to the place where he most belongs.

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Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gibbons mulling where Bautista, Morales will hit

Gibbons mulling where Bautista, Morales will hit

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Now that Jose Bautista is back and Kendrys Morales has arrived -- officially and, thanks to Friday's position players report date, physically -- the question is where they'll bat in a changed Blue Jays lineup.

Morales' arrival as a free agent changed the dynamic of the Toronto order because of his switch-hitting skill set, and manager John Gibbons is still working through the best way to use Morales' bat amid his collection of right-handed power producers (Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson) in the top half of the order.

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Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Estrada enjoys coffee in bathrobe like rest of us

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Estrada enjoys coffee in bathrobe like rest of us

When Marco Estrada reported for camp earlier this week, he did it the same way any of us get ready for work after a long vacation: by drinking a cup of coffee in a robe.

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Sanchez enters season with no limitations

Coming off first All-Star season, Blue Jays righty says he's ready to go

Sanchez enters season with no limitations

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The reins are off and Aaron Sanchez can finally look forward to a season without an innings limit.

Sanchez's workload was a frequent topic of conversation during last year's Blue Jays run to the American League Championship Series. Toronto backed off plans to remove him from the rotation, but he was skipped multiple times to keep his innings to a manageable number. Not anymore.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Latos signs Minors deal with Blue Jays

Latos signs Minors deal with Blue Jays

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Blue Jays on Thursday signed right-hander Mat Latos to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

He will make $1.5 million if he makes the 25-man roster, according to Sportsnet. He also can earn more in incentives.

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Todd Zolecki has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Howell happy to have Toronto crowd on his side

Ex-Tampa Bay reliever recalls fans' creative chants

Howell happy to have Toronto crowd on his side

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- New Blue Jays reliever J.P. Howell sounds like a man who is grateful that he will be suiting up for the home team at Rogers Centre instead of the opposing side.

Howell is quite familiar with Toronto's home crowd after having spent six seasons with the Rays from 2006-12. By the sounds of it, Howell's experience north of the border wasn't always pleasant, but he seemed to enjoy it anyway.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Girodo off 40-man, stays in Blue Jays' camp

Girodo off 40-man, stays in Blue Jays' camp

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays left-hander Chad Girodo was outrighted off the 40-man roster on Wednesday afternoon but he will remain in Toronto's Spring Training camp as a non-roster invitee.

Girodo was designated for assignment a week ago when the Blue Jays made a series of moves to create space on the 40-man roster for veteran relievers J.P. Howell and Joe Smith. Girodo later cleared waivers and on Wednesday officially remained with the organization.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gibbons confident in contract situation

Gibbons confident in contract situation

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- John Gibbons' contract is set to expire at the end of the season, but the veteran manager remains confident he will be able to work something out with the Blue Jays well before then.

Gibbons is expected to discuss a possible contract extension with general manager Ross Atkins in the near future. Atkins and president Mark Shapiro are both on record saying that signing Gibbons remains a priority, and it seems like only a matter of time before a new deal is agreed upon.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stroman prevails in arbitration case

Stroman prevails in arbitration case

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman picked up a win on the first official day of Spring Training. This one just happened to be against his own team.

Stroman won his arbitration case and will earn $3.4 million this season in news that broke Tuesday afternoon. Toronto previously filed at $3.1 million but after hearing the case, an independent arbiter ruled in favor of Stroman.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.