DUNEDIN, Fla. – Final roster decisions are coming as soon as Tuesday for the Toronto Blue Jays, which means a long period of uncertainty is due to end for players on the bubble like Darrell Ceciliani.
The 25-year-old has made a strong impression during a very good camp – his fourth homer of Grapefruit League play lifted the Blue Jays to a 2-1 win Monday over the Philadelphia Phillies – and is very much in the running for the fourth outfielder’s job.
But at this point, he has no idea whether he should be prepping for triple-A Buffalo or Toronto, and hasn’t made any arrangements, from finding places to live to prepping his stuff either way, just yet.
"It’s not the end of the world if I don’t break with the club, I feel like I put myself in a good position for them to at least know what I can do and hopefully feel comfortable for when the time comes and go up and contribute and help the team win," he said. "There are a lot of us in here who want to know what’s going on and it’s just question marks. For me, it’s a different side, I’ve been in the minor-leagues the past seven seasons, and I’ve kind of known you’re going to be here, you’re going to be here a week early. Here you’re competing down to the last day, they’re trying to make the best calls they can for the roster. That can go all the way to the last day, so it’s a little bit of a different scenario."
Ceciliani knows the game well enough to realize the fact that he has options remaining may very well make him the odd man out, especially since front-runner Ezequiel Carrera and Junior Lake are both out of options and must clear waivers before they can be sent to the minors.
At the same time, he’s smart enough to realize that he’s playing for the next call up, as well, and the .417 batting average (15-for-36) with four homers and 10 RBIs he’s delivered in 19 games has won people over.
"It’s confidence about knowing you can come up and compete with these guys," Ceciliani said of his spring. "Getting to know everybody was a big thing for me, coming in not knowing anybody and meeting guys. I tried to prove it on the field, you earn a lot of guys’ respect by the way you play, especially guys that have been around, the core guys. They’ve put their time in and done what they needed to do, and they’ve earned it. I try to play hard and earn respect that way."
ROSTER DECISIONS: Aside from the fourth outfielder’s spot, the Blue Jays must settle whether Marco Estrada will open the season on the disabled list (quite possible), name a closer between Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen, and decide the final spots in the bullpen.
If Estrada is indeed placed on the DL, the team could carry eight relievers, including Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini (who must be offered back to the San Francisco Giants if he’s not on the big-league roster or if a trade isn’t made) and Arnold Leon, who’s out of options.
Veteran Randy Choate is in competition for the lefty role with Aaron Loup expected to open the season on the DL, but given that he’s essentially a one-batter arm, the Blue Jays may opt for someone who could give them more depth. That may open up space for switch-pitcher Pat Venditte or reverse-split righty Ryan Tepera, who both have options.
As for closer, Osuna’s stuff has been so impressive this spring he may end up with the ninth inning.
TOUGH CALLS: As a player John Gibbons often got bad news about his fate on the roster. As a manager, he now delivers it, as well as the good.
He did both Monday, telling Aaron Sanchez he’d earned a spot in the rotation, while informing Gavin Floyd he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen and Drew Hutchison that he was going to triple-A Buffalo.
"It’s tough on my end," said Gibbons. "You don’t want to be callous with anything because you’re really affecting their career, everybody wants to be in the big-leagues, sometimes guys get sent out and they should be in the big-leagues, but circumstances dictate otherwise. I feel for those guys, I don’t take that lightly, but you learn over time in these positions there’s a big plan, you’ve got to plan for six months, and hopefully more. It’s not just one day, the first two weeks, or the first month. You always have to keep that in perspective. …
"I totally understand when a player doesn’t want any part of that because they are focusing on themselves, ‘Where am I going to be?’ A guy like Hutch, he’s had some success in the big-leagues, he’s done a nice job for us, and he’s still young. He wants to be here, he’s not going to be here, and it’s tough to sell to those guys in that position, that, ‘Hey, this is best for the team.’ The organization comes first, the team comes first, but it’s tough to comprehend sometimes."
EDDIE GOES DEEP: Edwin Encarnacion made four plate appearances in a minor-league game Monday, collecting a walk and a homer. He’ll play again at DH on Tuesday and then get reps at first base Thursday and Friday as he rushes to get ready for the regular season.
He’s expecting to get there after being sidelined by an oblique injury.
"I just need to keep doing what I’ve been doing today, taking a lot of pitches, being aggressive in the strike zone, and I’m going to be ready to go," he said. "I only need to be healthy."
STROMAN READY: Marcus Stroman closed out his Grapefruit League campaign with four shutout innings against the Phillies, allowing three hits and hitting a batter while striking out three. He’ll throw a bullpen as usual and won’t travel to Montreal ahead of Sunday’s season opener against the Rays.
Stroman was pleased with his finishing touches Monday.
"I wanted to throw a couple of sliders, I did, and throw some changeups, which I did as well," said Stroman. "I feel great, man, I put in a lot of work this off-season, and I feel like it’s showing and my body feels great. I’m excited to start the year."
DUCK!: Josh Donaldson had to dodge Maikel Franco’s bat in the third inning after the Phillies third baseman swung over a Marcus Stroman changeup and flung his lumber.
As the bat was flying at the AL MVP what went through Stroman’s mind?
"I thought it was a good pitch," Stroman said with a laugh. "Whenever you can get someone that far out in front with their bat you did your job. Sorry JD."