Blue Jays might start year with eight-man bullpen

Blue Jays might start year with eight-man bullpen

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With just over two weeks remaining until Opening Day, the Blue Jays are still floating the idea of starting the year with an eight-man bullpen.

Toronto has several pitchers who are out of options on their contracts and cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without passing through waivers. That will complicate the club's decision-making process at the end of camp, as the Blue Jays must weigh the pros and cons of carrying an extra reliever or adding to their bench.

"We'll know at the end of Spring Training what we're going to do, but it could go either way, eight or seven, depending on how things stack up and whether we want to risk losing somebody," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Bottom line, what makes the team stronger. That will probably go down to the end."

Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup are all but officially guaranteed a spot in the bullpen. The remaining pitchers will be chosen from a group that includes Dustin McGowan, Jeremy Jeffress, Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers.

Redmond and Rogers also are being considered for the final spot in the starting rotation, but either way, the Blue Jays will have to get creative if they want to hang onto everybody. An eight-man bullpen is one possibility, but it's also something that would leave the club with only Maicer Izturis, Moises Sierra and either Erik Kratz or Josh Thole off the bench.

"We're not going to take somebody just to keep them," Gibbons said. "We know a lot about the guys that were with us last year, so you can't put on everything on how they perform down here. That's more riding, if they're going to be that fifth guy or not.

"We have a pretty good idea, but we're going to try and put the bullpen together as strong as we can. Ideally you just want seven because you want to strengthen that bench, but it could end up being eight. That wouldn't be ideal, but it could be the way that ends up."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for 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.