The top two candidates are Double-A right-hander Drew Hutchison and Triple-A righty Jesse Chavez. The club has yet to make any final decisions, but an announcement is expected either Thursday or Friday afternoon.
"I think that's the most likely outcome," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said when asked if it was between Chavez and Hutchison for the final spot. "There's still a chance that guys can get claimed on waivers, an outside chance there's a trade. I don't expect that to happen, but that's part of the reason we're waiting a bit, but most likely it ends up being one of those two."
The omission of right-hander Joel Carreno from the list of candidates came as somewhat of a surprise. Carreno opened the year in Toronto's starting rotation, but was demoted after just one outing.
At the time, the reason behind optioning Carreno back to the Minors was because Toronto didn't need a fifth starter again until this Saturday. Carreno apparently has been passed by Hutchison and Chavez.
"[Carreno] was a candidate, I think the other two guys are throwing a little bit -- I don't want to say they're ahead of him, but they've thrown well the last few outings and for this turn, they've moved ahead of him a little," Anthopoulos said.
"The other two guys have just thrown a little bit better at this point.
Hutchison, who is ranked as the Blue Jays' No. 7 prospect, according to MLB.com, has gotten off to a fast start at Double-A New Hampshire. He has allowed just four runs in 16 1/3 innings this season and previously became a favorite of manager John Farrell with an impressive performance in Spring Training.
The decision ultimately will come down to whether the Blue Jays feel Hutchison is ready to make the jump to the big leagues at age 21, or if he would be best served with more seasoning in the Minor Leagues.
Hutchison's slider a work in progress, but his ability to command the strike zone has prompted a lot of talk that he could continue his development in the Majors. It's a similar situation to what the Blue Jays did with Henderson Alvarez last season when he went straight to the big leagues from Double-A.
"Alvarez wouldn't have been hurt staying down a little bit longer to work on his slider a little bit more, but he had enough to come up and he wasn't going to be set back from a developmental standpoint," Anthopoulos said. "Drew's the same way. He pitched well enough in Spring Training, stayed with us deep in camp, but in a perfect world could he get a few more starts to tighten up his slider a little more, tighten up his changeup a little more? Sure, but are those things he can still do here? Sure, and he's throwing the ball well enough.
"If there was a major developmental component he wouldn't even be a candidate. He's a strike thrower, he's got a slider, he's got a changeup, he just needs to be more consistent and rather than hitting on his slider one out of every four, you'd like it to be one out of every two."