"The 'pen, for us, has always been an area of strength," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Wednesday.
League may no longer be an option for late-inning relief situations, but Anthopoulos has a long list of arms in the mix for bullpen roles in 2010. One interesting name Anthopoulos mentioned is right-hander Jeremy Accardo. He is an intriguing candidate not for a lack of experience, but due to comments made by the pitcher's agent earlier this offseason.
Before the Dec. 12 tender deadline, Accardo's agent made it clear that the arbitration-eligible reliever was hoping not to receive a contract offer from the Blue Jays. Such a move would have sent Accardo to the free-agent pool, providing him with a fresh start after he bounced between Triple-A Las Vegas and Toronto throughout a disappointing 2009 season.
The Blue Jays did extend a contract offer to Accardo, though, and Anthopoulos called the pitcher to discuss the situation. On Wednesday, Anthopoulos said that he and Accardo cleared the air and noted that the pitcher is looking forward to coming into Spring Training to compete for a role in Toronto's bullpen.
"I did speak with Jeremy after I read the comments," Anthopoulos said. "He explained that maybe that wasn't the best course of action -- to come out and talk in the media about those type of things. But, also, I wanted to encourage him. I told him, look, he has a right with his agent and so on to do whatever he feels is appropriate, but I told him it doesn't help his cause not being able to pick up the phone and call us directly. I had a great talk with him.
"From his standpoint, all he wants [is] to feel as though he has a legitimate chance to be on this team. He obviously had very good success a few years ago and he wants a legitimate opportunity to come into Spring Training to compete for a job. I assured him that he would have that opportunity. He expressed to me that he really appreciated the fact that I called him directly.
"We had a very good conversation and he wants to be here. He's excited about being here and, obviously, he wants to put the Minor Leagues behind him. But, he understands that if he doesn't have a good Spring Training -- and he does have options left -- that there is a chance that he does get sent down."
In 2007, Accardo posted a 2.14 ERA and saved 30 games as an interim closer for the Jays, who were without injured closer B.J. Ryan. Accardo labored through an injury-riddled campaign in 2008 and posted a 2.55 ERA in 26 games out of the Jays' bullpen last season. With a player option available, though, Toronto kept him with Triple-A Las Vegas for much of '09.
As Anthopoulos noted, though, Accardo is hardly a lock for a bullpen job this spring. Toronto will have seven relief roles available and Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Brian Tallet are likely locks for three of those sports. Other arms in the mix include Rule 5 Draft pick Zech Zinicola, along with Shawn Camp, Jesse Carlson, Josh Roenicke, Dirk Hayhurst, Casey Janssen and perhaps Scott Richmond.
That list does not even take into account any Minor League free-agent signings or other young farmhands that might emerge as bullpen candidates during the spring.
Anthopoulos was quick to note that it's difficult to say how the bullpen will look come Opening Day.
"It's really too early to tell. We've got a lot of good bullpen candidates," Anthopoulos said. "I think a lot of that will sort itself out in the spring. Really, with all these guys, the more players we add with options, the more of a true competition we can make it and, hopefully, break with the best team."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.