Eight-man bullpen suits Blue Jays' needs

Eight-man bullpen suits Blue Jays' needs

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have decided to start the year with an eight-man bullpen.

Toronto will forego an extra man off the bench in favor of carrying an additional reliever. The Blue Jays had several pitchers who were out of options competing for jobs, and the organization was looking for a way to keep them in the fold.

Jeremy Jeffress, Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond will all start the year on the 25-man roster. That should go a long way in helping to protect the pitching staff -- in particular Dustin McGowan, who is starting the season on a strict pitch count.

"We've been talking about it for quite awhile," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We were hoping to go the other way, but we just feel like at this point in time, that's the way we need to go. There's some guys we don't want to lose. Plus, we're talking about the rotation, we have some guys that we have to keep an eye on, too, so we need a little depth on the Major League roster."

Rogers and Redmond will both pitch in long relief, while Jeffress gives the Blue Jays another power arm to use during the middle innings. They fill out a group which includes closer Casey Janssen, setup man Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup.

Catcher Josh Thole, infielder Maicer Izturis and outfielder Moises Sierra will be available off the bench. Recently acquired Matt Tuiasosopo has not made the team and likely will be placed on waivers in the near future, because he is out of Minor League options on his contract.

The Blue Jays can only hope for a repeat performance from the bullpen in 2014. Toronto's relievers were among the best in baseball last season after posting a 3.37 ERA in 552 2/3 innings.

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.