Plethora of relievers puts Janssen's job at risk
With five jobs locked up, right-hander faces uphill climb
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- There's an old saying that you can never have enough pitching, and the Blue Jays appear to be putting that theory to the test at this year's Spring Training.
The club is currently faced with a heated competition for the final two spots in the bullpen. At least eight relievers are being considered for the jobs, and manager John Farrell conceded on Monday afternoon that who makes the team will be his most difficult decision in Dunedin.
"First and foremost, there's going to be competition here in camp, and that's only a healthy thing," Farrell said. "Guys are going to come in and they know what's at stake here, so that's going to bring out the best in each guy.
"There's a general profile that you're looking to fill, but at the same time, you've got to create a playing field that is even, open and competitive, and there's a number of guys that are clearly going to be in that competition."
The Blue Jays appear to have five relievers already locked in. Barring injuries, right-handers Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp should have no trouble making the Opening Day roster.
That leaves just two spots up for grabs, which will come from a group that includes Casey Janssen, Carlos Villanueva, Chad Cordero, David Purcey, Jesse Carlson and Jo-Jo Reyes. Potential starters such as Marc Rzepczynski and Scott Richmond could also enter the mix if they are unable to win a spot in the rotation.
Farrell said ideally the last two positions would be filled with a pitcher who can match up against left-handers and another reliever that has the ability to throw multiple innings.
One of Farrell's deciding factors could ultimately come down to which players are out of options. Left-handers Purcey and Reyes both fall into that category, and the club must find a spot for them on the 25-man roster or risk losing the pair through waivers.
In the case of Purcey, that seems like something the club would be unwilling to do following a season in which he went 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 34 innings.
If Purcey does have inside track, that narrows the field even further. It's a competition that has become one of the storylines to watch this spring -- and something the rest of the Blue Jays clubhouse has taken notice of, too.
Veteran right-hander Frasor isn't one of the relievers who is at risk of losing his job, but he has been a teammate of many of those who are.
"It's going to be interesting," Frasor said. "I just don't know how it's going to play out -- who is that guy going to be that's not going to make it.
"These guys aren't stupid. We know who are in that situation -- who has options. All of those things come into play. At the end of the day, you can't dwell on it too much, you just have to do the best you can and try to have the best Spring Training possible and make [the coaches'] decision really tough."
The bullpen competition arose during the offseason, when Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos signed Francisco, Dotel and Rauch to one-year contracts. He also acquired Villanueva through a trade with Milwaukee, while potential free agent Frasor remained with the club after accepting arbitration.
The wave of new pitchers puts the job of an established veteran like Janssen in jeopardy. The 29-year-old has spent his entire four-year Major League career in Toronto, but he now runs the risk of being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas to start the season.
"I can't be oblivious to see what additions that we have made," said Janssen, who went 5-2 with a 3.67 ERA in 2010. "I know I have an option. I'm sure Alex knows I have an option. Do I want to use it? No. Do I plan on using it? No. But it's my job in the spring to show them that I deserve to be here."
Janssen made it clear that he is not looking for a way out of Toronto. He has accepted that he is coming into camp without any guarantees, but instead with an opportunity to compete for a job. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what the organization has in store for him.
"Depth is great, but just to do it doesn't always make sense," said Janssen. "If I'm deserving to go to Triple-A, then you have to go, but at the same [time], I believe I'm a big leaguer and I believe I can get people out up there."
It's likely that Farrell will address some of those concerns when he hosts individual meetings with each pitcher. The first-year manager will attempt to avoid any turmoil in the clubhouse by ensuring each player knows exactly what should be expected of them in the upcoming season.
"It's one of the reasons why we sit down with everybody in camp and explain where they stand today, what lies ahead and what's going to be factored into the decision," Farrell said. "That's where the benefit of one-on-one meetings come into play, and those scenarios are outlined to each and every pitcher and what they're in competition for."
It's also possible the bullpen situation could sort itself out during Spring Training. Injuries could play a factor, while it's possible the Blue Jays' slew of relievers could catch the attention of an opposing ballclub.
"Honestly, because of the talent and because of the depth, I wouldn't be surprised if Alex gets approached some time in camp," Farrell said. "That's not to say there are any discussions currently ... but when you have the amount of pitchers that we have in camp that have had success at the big league level that have already transitioned, per say. Yes, I'm sure we'll have a number of people watching closely what's going on here.