Romero toes rubber for spring opener

Romero toes rubber for spring opener

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The first game of the spring might not involve the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, but it is still a contest that holds much meaning. It is an unofficial beginning of a new season and a first look at how a club's roster might look come April.

In recent seasons, the first Grapefruit League start for the Blue Jays was reserved for ace Roy Halladay -- much like Opening Day. Now that Halladay is with the Phillies, though, there is a wide-open competition for the top slot in Toronto's rotation and a vacancy for Wednesday's 1:05 p.m. ET spring opener against the Tigers.

Toeing the rubber in the Blue Jays' inaugural affair of Spring Training will be left-hander Ricky Romero, who won 13 games as a rookie last season and emerged as the team's No. 2 arm behind Halladay. Romero is in the mix to start come Opening Day and his quest to earn that role begins with two scheduled innings against Detroit at Dunedin Stadium.

The Blue Jays' first spring lineup looks similar to what the order could be when the regular season opens. Leading off against the Tigers on Wednesday will be Jose Bautista, who is in line to fill that role throughout the upcoming season. Manager Cito Gaston has slotted second baseman Aaron Hill and designated hitter Adam Lind into the Nos. 2-3 spots, where they thrived as a powerful one-two punch last year.

Behind that trio, Toronto's lineup for the opener against Detroit will feature center fielder Vernon Wells in the cleanup spot, first baseman Lyle Overbay batting fifth, new catcher John Buck in the six-hole, and right fielder Jeremy Reed, shortstop Alex Gonzalez and left fielder Travis Snider filling out the Nos. 7-9 spots, respectively.

Following Romero's first start of the spring, the Blue Jays will also send left-hander Dana Eveland and right-hander Josh Roenicke to the hill. Other pitchers who might appear in the opener include Willie Collazo, Merkin Valdez, Zech Zinicola, Zach Stewart and Daniel Farquhar.

On Thursday, the Blue Jays head to Lakeland, Fla., to play the Tigers again at 1:05 p.m. Toronto will give the start to lefty Marc Rzepczynski in that contest, with lefty Brett Cecil and pitching prospect Kyle Drabek also scheduled to appear. Drabek, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and first baseman Brett Wallace were each acquired in the Halladay trade in December, and the young trio will all make the trek to Lakeland.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.