Who is going to be the Blue Jays' starting second baseman this season?
-- Chris M., Winnipeg, Manitoba
Maicer Izturis entered Spring Training as the front-runner for the job, and that would still appear to the case a few weeks later. After a slow start with the bat, Izturis is starting to come around and now has four hits in parts of nine games.
The veteran utility man has uncharacteristically struggled in the field, committing three errors. Based on his previous track record, though, Izturis should be able to iron out the kinks, as he's only made 64 errors in his 732-game career. It's his overall defensive ability that sets him apart from fellow competitor Emilio Bonifacio.
Bonifacio has suffered through some well-documented troubles in the field during his brief time in a Blue Jays uniform. He has committed four errors and likely could have been charged with at least two more. The biggest issue is turning the double play, as his throws often tail away from the first baseman.
The 27-year-old Bonifacio does appear to have nice hands and relatively decent range at second, but his throws still need a lot of work. If he can solve that issue, Bonifacio should be able to steal some playing time because of his dynamic offensive abilities and plus speed on the basepaths. Either way, the Blue Jays need to find a way to get him at-bats.
J.A. Happ doesn't seem very comfortable with his situation in Toronto, and that he may be sent to the Minors. Will the Blue Jays look to trade him instead?
-- Renato M., Toronto
It would seem ill-advised for the Blue Jays to make any type of trade involving Happ, because it would create a major void in their pitching depth. Beyond Happ, the Blue Jays still don't know how much they can rely on other backup starters such as Justin Germano, Chad Jenkins, Dave Bush and perhaps Brad Lincoln. The next wave of prospects -- such as Sean Nolin and John Stilson -- also needs more time before taking the next step.
There's going to be a need for Happ at some point this season. It's incredibly rare for a team to make it through the year using only five starters, so it's not a matter of if Happ will return to the big leagues, but when. Until then, Happ likely will have to remain patient while pitching for Triple-A Buffalo although there is still a slim chance he could win a job out of the bullpen in Toronto.
Neither option seems suitable for Happ, who described himself on Sunday as a "Major League starting pitcher" when asked if he would prefer to start in the Minors or pitch out of the bullpen in Toronto. He plans to meet with the Blue Jays to go over his situation within the next couple of weeks, but there doesn't appear to be many options at his disposal. Happ is ultimately going to have to accept whatever decision the Blue Jays end up making, and it's unlikely to be a trade.
What does the future hold for Brett Cecil? Is he going to make the team out of the bullpen?
-- Jeff M., Moncton, New Brunswick
From my view, Cecil opened camp as a clear-cut favorite to win one of the final two jobs in Toronto's bullpen. He's out of options and cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without first clearing waivers, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that another team would want to take a chance on him if that were to happen.
The problem is that Cecil has gotten off to a very slow start this spring. He's had trouble locating his fastball down in the zone, which has led to a high number of walks and some hard-hit balls. It's still early, though, and Cecil has several weeks to figure things out, but he is facing stiff competition for the final two spots from the likes of Aaron Loup, Lincoln, Jeremy Jeffress, Neil Wagner, Happ and Bush.
The Blue Jays seem to view Cecil as a long reliever, but he would be better served pitching in shorter stints. He has limited lefties to a .232 average and .657 OPS, and could become a valuable specialist or short-stint reliever when used properly out of the bullpen.
What's the latest on the three Blue Jays pitchers who had Tommy John surgery last year -- Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and Luis Perez?
-- Michael B., Vancouver, British Columbia
Drabek is set to throw off a mound this week for the first time since he underwent Tommy John surgery last June. It's a positive step, but that doesn't change the fact he won't be ready for a very long period of time. The same can be said for both Perez and Hutchison.
The Blue Jays' stance regarding Tommy John surgeries is that they don't want a player to return until a full year has gone by since the date of their procedure. That would have Drabek out until June, while both Perez and Hutchison would be out until July and August, respectively.
It's possible that the three injured pitchers could become a factor late in the year, but it's more realistic to expect that not to happen until 2014. Drabek and Hutchison could use some time in the Minors to get back to full strength and possibly re-enter the mix for the rotation the following season. Perez, though, could be an intriguing option to use out of the bullpen when he does eventually return later this year.
Who will be the Opening Day third baseman if Brett Lawrie's strained oblique muscle isn't healed for the regular season?
-- Christie D., Guelph, Ontario
The hope is that Lawrie will be ready for the start of the season, but if he's not, the club does have a few options at its disposal. Izturis could be shifted from second to third, which would create additional playing time for Bonifacio.
The other scenario would be to have utility man Mark DeRosa assume the bulk of the workload at third. DeRosa was signed to back up Lawrie at third base, and provided he can stay healthy, he'll likely see more action early in the season than he otherwise might have been expecting.
That's the clear Plan B, though, as Lawrie should make a full recovery by April 2. The issue is that Lawrie suffered a similar injury last year and had the pain linger for more than a month. The belief is that he shut things down quicker this season, which should cut down the time needed to rehab. It's still very likely he makes it back for Opening Day.
Is Casey Janssen's shoulder going to be ready for Opening Day?
-- Ashley W., Summerside, Prince Edward Island
Janssen still has a lot of work to do before he can be cleared for the start of the season. He's scheduled for another bullpen session on Tuesday, but from there Janssen will need to advance to a live batting-practice session and then likely an appearance in a Minor League game.
The 31-year-old is currently throwing every third day, and based on that schedule, he should miss at least the next week and a half of the Grapefruit League season. When he does eventually return, Janssen will need to appear in several games and likely would need to prove he can throw on back-to-back days as well.
That's an awful lot to accomplish in the three weeks before the start of the regular season. As a result, it seems somewhat unlikely that Janssen will head north with the team, and he is thus a strong candidate to begin the year on the disabled list. That stint should be relatively short-lived, though, and he should still make it back to the team in early April.
Right-hander Sergio Santos could fill the void during Janssen's absence. Santos dealt with a minor right arm injury this spring but has since been cleared to resume pitching and should be ready for Opening Day. If Santos suffers any type of setback, the closer's duties would then likely fall to the hard-throwing Steve Delabar.
When are the Blue Jays going to stop using Adam Lind against left-handers? He has proven before that he cannot hit them, but he could still be useful against righties.
-- Tim S., Niagara Falls, Ontario
The Blue Jays seem inclined to give Lind one more opportunity to be an everyday player. The initial belief was that he would enter into a platoon at designated hitter with the likes of Bonifacio, DeRosa and Rajai Davis, taking turns versus left-handed pitching.
That scenario changed at the start of camp when manager John Gibbons said Lind would be given a chance to play on a full-time basis. The hope is that Lind will regain some of his previous form, but the experiment could be short-lived, because it's hard to overlook the fact that the veteran has hit just .220 in his career against lefties, compared to a .282 mark against righties.
The smart thing would be to rest both Lind and Colby Rasmus versus tough lefties. That would create some additional playing time for both Davis and Bonifacio, who have favorable numbers against southpaws during their time in the big leagues.