DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Frank Francisco is expected to be named the Blue Jays' closer later this month, but that doesn't mean other relievers will be completely shut out from save opportunities.
Francisco has made only two appearances during Spring Training because of soreness in his right pectoral muscle. The club is optimistic he will be ready for Opening Day, but they plan on taking a cautious approach once the season begins.
That's where veteran reliever Jon Rauch will enter the fold and likely save games when Francisco needs a day off.
"We're hopeful that we're going to be in situations where we need a secondary closer," manager John Farrell said. "Where we're not going to overtax a guy three days in a row, Rauch then comes very much into that picture."
2010 Spring Training - Toronto Blue Jays
News & Features
- Blue Jays get contributions throughout lineup in win
- Lawrie's absence alters infield defense
- Gibbons returns with same approach from first stint
- Gibbons keeping options open in bullpen
- Encarnacion back in lineup at full health
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Farrell entered Spring Training with Francisco as his ideal candidate for the closer job. It's the 31-year-old's track record of being able to attack both right-handed and left-handed hitters that sticks out the most.
"I felt like Frankie might have had the edge coming in," Farrell said of Francisco, who held lefties to a .205 batting average in 2010. "That's not to say we weren't open minded and we still had to see how things played out -- and we still are -- but that's been from a personal view that's been some of the thought coming in."
Farrell has ruled out the possibility of using a closer by committee except when his main reliever needs a day off. He would prefer each member of his staff to know exactly what their role is. It's something he plans to outline before the team heads north for the start of the season.
"Once we make the final decision on the roster, we will sit down as a coaching staff ... with the whole bullpen," Farrell said. "We'll give them what our initial thoughts are on some roles and we'll give some scenarios."
Blue Jays' Hill set to make Grapefruit debut
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Aaron Hill is tentatively scheduled to appear in his first Grapefruit League game on Tuesday afternoon against Philadelphia.
Hill, who has been out with soreness in his right quadriceps muscle, participated in his third consecutive Minor League game on Friday. He was given the go-ahead to start at designated hitter after he came out of Thursday's game feeling fine.
"He came out of the box with a little bit more intensity," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Thursday's work. "He is gaining a little bit more confidence in the quad. All his pregame work, his infield work, all that is normal. He'll go through the same setup and arrangement today hopefully to get six at-bats."
The Blue Jays feel the game against Philadelphia would be an appropriate time for Hill to return because it follows the club's off-day. Hill will have the weekend to continue working his way back and then a day of rest before making his debut.
The club has taken a cautious approach with Hill's return because it doesn't want the injury to become a lingering issue during the season. Last year, Hill hit .205 with 26 home runs and 68 RBIs in 138 games.
In other injury news, shortstop Yunel Escobar was scratched from Friday's game against the Yankees because of a sore back. The injury is considered minor and he likely will be back in the lineup on Saturday in a rematch against New York.
Blue Jays trim spring roster by three
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays returned Zach Stewart, Henderson Alvarez and John Tolisano to their Minor League camp on Friday morning.
Toronto now has 44 players remaining -- including 24 pitchers, four catchers and 10 infielders.
Stewart likely will begin the season in the starting rotation for Triple-A Las Vegas. The 24-year-old spent last year in Double-A and compiled a 8-3 record with a 3.63 ERA and 106 strikeouts. He could become a candidate to receive a promotion if someone on Toronto's starting staff suffers an injury.
Alvarez is still just 20 years old and fresh off an impressive campaign with Class A Dunedin. He went 8-7 with a 4.33 ERA but it was his development from the start of the year to the end that generated most of the praise. He began the 2010 season throwing 92-93 mph, but as he matured his velocity dramatically increased.
"All of a sudden he jumped a full grade during the course of the season just through physical maturity," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He started pitching at 96-97 and he added a very usable power slurve. I wouldn't call it a true slider but it's a breaking ball that's got some depth. He's excited about it and it feels like it comes out of his hand naturally. ... He's as good of a pitching prospect as we have in the organization."
The 22-year-old Tolisano went 2-for-14 with three runs scored in 12 Grapefruit League games. Last season in Class A Dunedin, he hit .252 with five home runs and 21 RBIs.