Spring Training requires two very different approaches

Spring Training requires two very different approaches

LAKELAND, Fla. -- In some ways, Spring Training is a tale of the haves and have nots.

Players with guaranteed jobs have the luxury of being able to take their time and work on specific things in each outing. The results take a backseat to preparing for the year, and as long as they are ready to go by Opening Day, the numbers do not matter.

The same can't be said for players who find themselves needing to perform well to make the team. There is a definite balance between players' going out there with their best stuff and working on specific things that might make them better down the road.

"The guys that are on the team, they're still just working on their stuff, because results don't really matter," manager John Gibbons said. "The guys who are trying to make the team and trying to make a good impression, it's more about results.

"You'll start to see more of a game approach [soon], but guys are still working on different parts of their game, the guys who are established anyways."

Toronto is currently ranked seventh in Spring Training with a 4.58 staff ERA while also ranking seventh with 66 walks. The staff is mostly set in stone but still has a lot of candidates vying for two jobs in the bullpen.

Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Brad Lincoln and Jeremy Jeffress are the front-runners, but the list also includes the likes of J.A. Happ, Dave Bush, Neil Wagner, Ramon Ortiz and Justin Germano.

What makes evaluating that competition more difficult is that those pitchers are often throwing against Minor Leaguers. After starting pitchers come out of the game, position players usually follow relatively soon afterward.

"You'd want to see them against the best, but it's hard to do sometimes," Gibbons said. "It's starting to get to that point in Spring Training where the regulars are going to start playing a bit more in the next week or so, so it's a little bit different game.

"If it's a pitcher, you look at what he's doing with his pitches, not necessarily the results. Are his pitches crisp, sharp; is he hitting his spots? That kind of thing. That outweighs who he is facing against the end of the game that haven't established themselves either."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.