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Santos ready to reclaim closer's role if needed

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are still hopeful that Casey Janssen will be ready for the start of the season, but if he's not, the club has a capable replacement to step in and fill the void.

While Janssen continues rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, it's right-hander Sergio Santos who is starting to take center stage. Santos has pitched two scoreless innings so far this spring, but it's not the results that matter -- it's the dominating fashion in which he has performed.

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Santos has been overpowering and is displaying the type of arsenal the Blue Jays expected all along when they made him the key offseason acquisition in a trade with the White Sox prior to the 2012 campaign.

"It's frustrating because you want him to be healthy because he's such a big piece in that bullpen and I think that's the most important thing," said Santos, who recorded 30 saves in 2011 with Chicago.

"I don't want him to rush and go through what I went through, trying to push through things, because as much as we'd like him in April, we don't need him in April, we need August, September and hopefully October. As long as he's back, we'll be fine."

Santos can relate because he went through a similar scenario last spring. As the start of the season neared, he experienced some arm discomfort but attempted to pitch through the pain.

His season lasted just six games before he was eventually shut down. A long rehab ensued, but Santos was unable to recover from a right shoulder injury and surgery was required in late July.

Santos has long since recovered from that procedure. During Thursday afternoon's game against the Yankees he topped out at 96 mph while displaying an impressive slider. The one pitch that has yet to be added into the mix is his changeup.

It's a pitch that he has been throwing regularly on the side but hasn't improved enough to the point where he can use it in games.

"So far, so good," Santos said of the changeup. "Obviously it's not where I want it to be but it's still early. I'm going to use the whole month of March to really pound that and use it as another pitch.

"When I was in the bullpen I threw maybe 15 of them. In the game, if we had a chance to we were going to and I think Henry [Blanco] was going to call one. But I wanted to get more command of my fastball and I want to get that dialed in before moving on to something else."

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