Decisions coming soon for Jays

Decisions coming soon for Jays

TAMPA, Fla. -- Only a handful of unanswered questions remain in Blue Jays camp, but the pending decisions will be announced before the end of next week, according to manager John Gibbons.

On Saturday, Gibbons said the club will set its 25-man roster before the team departs Florida for Philadelphia on Friday, when the Blue Jays play the Phillies in the first of a pair of exhibition games at Citizens Bank Park. The Jays open the regular season against the Yankees on March 31 in New York.

While the entire roster should be revealed by Friday, Gibbons noted that a decision concerning the situation in left field could come within the next few days. Toronto will either bring outfielder Reed Johnson or Shannon Stewart north with the club to split time in left with veteran Matt Stairs.

"I would say, in fairness to both of them, it'll probably come in the next few days," said Gibbons, when asked when the Jays would decide between Johnson and Stewart. "I think you owe them both that."

Earlier this spring, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said the club would likely go with the player Gibbons is most comfortable with keeping on the roster. Gibbons said on Saturday that he and Ricciardi will both be a part of the decision, noting that a trade could bring the resolution.

"It's a tough call," Gibbons said. "You care a lot about both of them and they could both help the team. We'll both be a part of that decision. ... Who knows, there could be a trade along the way, too. I do know that teams have been calling on both of those guys.

"They're both very good players. We're just going to see how it all shakes out. They both have their strengths. Stew's always been a great hitter. He was born to hit and he's always going to hit.

"Reed's always been very productive for us, and he's one of the best outfielders in the game. He's a very good baserunner. They're both great players and they both need to be playing somewhere."

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Last season, Johnson was sidelined with a back injury in April and he spent roughly three months on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. After returning, Johnson wasn't able to get comfortable with his swing and he didn't run as well as before the operation.

This spring has been a different story for the 31-year-old Johnson. Gibbons said the outfielder "looks like the old guy," referring to Johnson's showing in 2006, when he hit .319 with a .390 on-base percentage for the Jays. Still, with Johnson's health a question mark, Toronto signed the 34-year-old Stewart to a Minor League deal in February.

Another decision that should come within the next week will involve veteran catcher Sal Fasano, who doesn't have a spot on Toronto's Opening Day roster. Fasano, who signed a Minor League contract with the Jays in December, believed he was going to be the Jays' backup catcher this season.

That scenario changed in January, when Toronto signed catcher Rod Barajas to serve as the No. 2 option behind the plate. On Friday, the 36-year-old Fasano indicated that he was unwilling to accept an assignment at Triple-A Syracuse, meaning he'd either need to be cut or traded before camp breaks.

"I heard that he said he wouldn't go to Triple-A," Gibbons said. "I can't blame him. I really couldn't. I mean, there's no playing time for him down there anyway. I'd love to see him get an opportunity somewhere else."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.