The Blue Jays’ Opening Day Roster Is Finally Taking Shape

Steve Delabar
Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

After today’s game — which may not even happen, due to the weather — John Gibbons has said that he’ll announce that Drew Storen will open the year as his club’s closer.

Or… OK, he didn’t say yet that it will be Storen, but let’s be serious. That’s who it’s going to be.

But that wasn’t all that was going on, roster wise, in Dunedin this morning, as we’re starting to see how the bullpen will look when the team goes north. To wit:

  • “Former All-Star” Steve Delabar has been given his unconditional release by the club. It’s unfortunate that they’ll lose him as a depth piece, and sad because he’s such a great story — the steel plate in his elbow, his years in independent ball, and as a substitute teacher, before making it back and becoming an All-Star — but probably time to move on for both sides. He just hasn’t been the same since that first half of 2013. (John Lott has a fresh piece up about Delabar’s release, and how easy he is to root for, over at Vice Sports.)

  • The Jays have also released that Randy Choate, after he showed on Monday why he’s a true LOOGY — i.e. they let him face right-handers and they knocked the shit out of him. The Jays would like to have Choate go to Buffalo, but are allowing the veteran a couple of days to decide, according to a tweet from Gregor Chisholm. Do it, Randy!

  • This all means good things for the younger potential relievers in the Jays’ fold, and Pat Venditte and Joe Biagini in particular. The switch-pitching Venditte is really the only guy who can throw with his left hand left standing, so it seems like he’s got a spot on the team, at least until Aaron Loup is ready to return (at which point the fact that Venditte can be optioned probably means he’ll be shuffling off to Buffalo). And Biagini, who has earned strong reviews throughout the spring, seems poised to go north with the big club as well (rather than being offered back to the San Francisco Giants, which the Jays would have to do before sending him down, as he was acquired in the Rule 5 draft). John Gibbons himself said, according to a Shi Davidi tweet, that the club would like to take a further look at him.

  • That’s not all for the bullpen just yet, though, as indications are that Marco Estrada will begin the season on the disabled list, which will allow the club to carry eight relievers (because a fifth starter isn’t required in the season’s first week, because of an off-day). That sets up Marcus Stroman to pitch both Opening Day against Chris Archer and the Rays, as well as the club’s Home Opener, a week from Friday, against the Red Sox.

  • Having Estrada begin the year on the DL isn’t set in stone just yet, mind you. John Gibbons simply has said that the club is leaning that way, and even in that event, he won’t be away long. According to another Shi Davidi tweet, they’d look to have Estrada return to the roster to start the Sunday game against the Red Sox.

  • Whatever the case, though no one is quite saying it, you’d figure the bullpen is just about set, with Ryan Tepera and Arnold Leon (who a) has a strange hobby, and b) didn’t make a great last impression, giving up an early HR to Logan Forsythe in today’s “game” at Dunedin, before the rains came — which it seems like they’re going to as I write this) battling it out for the final spot on the roster. Not that it really matters, given that one will be back down in short order. What does matter a bit, however, is that Leon is out of options, according to the invaluable option and outright status page at Bluebird Banter, while Tepera isn’t. So… whoever makes it probably depends on whether the Jays think they have a better shot of holding onto Leon if they send him down now, or if they send him down at the end of next week.

  • However that shakes down, it seems like the bullpen will begin the season looking something like this: Drew Storen, Roberto Osuna, Brett Cecil, Gavin Floyd, Jesse Chavez, Pat Venditte, Joe Biagini, and Arnold Leon/Ryan Tepera. New York’s three-headed monster it is not, but that’s still pretty good. And it’s not like that’s how it’s going to look like by the end of the year.

  • Meanwhile, Roberto Hernandez — the former Fausto Carmona, who struggled this spring and never really seemed on the radar, as far as vying for the fifth starter’s spot is concerned — has officially opted out of his minor league deal with the Jays, according to a Ben Nicholson-Smith tweet. He’s asked for his unconditional release, and you figure he’s going to get it.

Official word on the closer role is still to come, while reporters have tweeted that Gibbons said a decision on who breaks camp as the fourth outfielder — a competition in which Darrell Ceciliani has done absolutely everything to overcome the fact that he can be optioned and the guys he’s up against, Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake, can’t — will come tomorrow. Stay tuned!