Stroman among fifth-starter candidates

Stroman among fifth-starter candidates

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- There's a long list of pitchers competing for the final spot in the Blue Jays' rotation, and manager John Gibbons said the club is going to take its time before declaring a winner.

"We won't know until we get a little way through Spring Training. Things will start shaking out," Gibbons said on Wednesday. "There's a number of guys who could win that spot. In our mind, we have an order of how it kind of stacks up right now, but we won't say it. Some guy could come out of nowhere and be that guy."

R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ will hold down the first four spots, barring any injuries this spring. Among those battling for the fifth spot are Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, Dustin McGowan and Ricky Romero.

How those pitchers perform in Grapefruit League action could go a long way in determining whether they crack the Opening Day roster.

"We know some of the other guys who had a chance and an opportunity last year and pitched well for us," Gibbons said. "We know a lot about some of these guys. Competition's good for everybody."

Gibbons was asked specifically about Stroman, Toronto's first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and the club's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com. In 20 starts last year for Double-A New Hampshire, the 22-year-old right-hander went 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings.

"We like him as an organization. He's coming off a big year at Double-A. Everybody likes him," Gibbons said. "If he comes out of it in Spring Training and he's that guy, then we'll go with him. He could very well."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.