Blue Jays’ 26-man roster finally comes into focus with Lukes making team

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider confirms that versatile outfielder Nathan Lukes has made the opening-day roster for the Blue Jays as the 26th man.

DUNEDIN, Fla. — In a bid for additional speed and defence in the outfield, the Blue Jays are going with 28-year-old rookie Nathan Lukes for the final spot on their bench, manager John Schneider announced before Tuesday’s spring training finale against the Phillies.

Otto Lopez and Vinny Capra, the other contenders for the job, are now slated to start their seasons at triple-A Buffalo after being optioned and reassigned, respectively. Schneider also confirmed that Zach Pop made the Blue Jays as the final reliever in the bullpen.

In Lukes, the Blue Jays add a left-handed hitter with speed and the versatility to play all three outfield positions. A seventh-round pick of the Guardians in 2015, Lukes has yet to make his MLB debut.

“We trust him in the outfield,” Schneider said. “We trust him on the bases. Obviously, his at-bats have been great. But the way we’re built and constructed right now, it’ll be in a probably here-and-there role to start. But just excited that he’s got the chance at the major leagues.”

Over the course of 111 games for the Buffalo Bisons last year, Lukes hit .285/.364/.425 with 11 home runs, 25 doubles and 20 steals in 23 attempts. He made most of his starts in centre field, also playing regularly in the corners.

As a member of the Blue Jays’ bench, he could be called on to play defence late in games or pinch run for the likes of Alejandro Kirk and Brandon Belt, Schneider said. Yet, chances are he won’t start many games over Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier or George Springer — at least not immediately.

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“We feel comfortable with him,” Schneider said. “It’s not so much base stealing, but also scoring from first on the double or scoring from second on a hit. Things like that and giving K.K. and George a blow.”

As for Lopez, the Blue Jays were impressed by his showing this spring, even if he didn’t make the team.

“There was nothing more he could have done to break with us,” Schneider said. “When we start this whole thing at the beginning of camp, I tell the guys it’s going to take contributions from everyone in the room. He’s going to be part of that at some point as well.”

The Blue Jays have until noon ET / 9 a.m. PT on March 30 to submit their roster to the commissioner’s office. When they do, here’s how it’ll look:

Catchers (2)

Danny Jansen (R)

Alejandro Kirk (R)

Infielders (5)

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R)

Brandon Belt (L)

Santiago Espinal (R)

Bo Bichette (R)

Matt Chapman (R)

Outfielders (4)

George Springer (R)

Daulton Varsho (L)

Kevin Kiermaier (L)

Nathan Lukes (L)

Utility (2)

Whit Merrifield (R)

Cavan Biggio (L)

Starting Pitchers (5)

RHP Alek Manoah

RHP Kevin Gausman

RHP Chris Bassitt

RHP Jose Berrios

LHP Yusei Kikuchi

Relief Pitchers (8)

RHP Jordan Romano

RHP Yimi Garcia

RHP Erik Swanson

LHP Tim Mayza

RHP Anthony Bass

RHP Adam Cimber

RHP Trevor Richards

RHP Zach Pop

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