LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' Opening Day roster is almost set in stone, but one of the few jobs still up for grabs can be found in long relief.
Toronto has a slew of candidates for its final spot in the bullpen. There is an interesting mix of younger arms and relatively proven veterans, which lead to a challenging decision for manager John Gibbons.
The candidates include the likes of Brett Cecil, Brad Lincoln, Jeremy Jeffress, J.A. Happ, Justin Germano and Dave Bush. One name absent from that list is left-hander Aaron Loup.
"We're looking for a long guy," Gibbons said. "Loup's not necessarily a long guy; he's more a situational, one-inning guy, but we're looking for that guy, multiple innings."
Just because Loup is not in the mix for the long-relief role does not necessarily mean he will be left off the 25-man roster. Gibbons mentioned several times Wednesday that there was just one job up for grabs, but that runs contrary to previous statements about there being two vacancies.
Gibbons did not elaborate, but that could mean one of the roster spots has been decided. Lincoln would certainly be a candidate for that as well, but considering Loup's track record in 2012, it is possible he is the mystery candidate.
Loup was one of the Blue Jays' most valuable relievers last year following his midseason callup. The Louisiana native posted a 2.64 ERA while striking out 21 in 30 2/3 innings.
Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Esmil Rogers and Steve Delabar are the five relievers who will undoubtedly head north if they are healthy at the end of Spring Training.
Morrow focuses on curveball against Tigers
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brandon Morrow has used each of his outings this spring to work on a different aspect of his repertoire.
During his first outing of the Grapefruit League season it was his changeup. The last start it was increased focus on fastball command down in the zone, and his outing Wednesday afternoon against Detroit was centered around the curveball.
Morrow threw first-pitch curveballs to each left-handed batter he faced and overall used it with more regularity than in previous starts. The goal is to begin fine-tuning it for the start of the regular season.
"We try to, especially the first three or four," Morrow said when asked if there is something specific he works on each spring start. "That's kind of been the thing, first-pitch curveballs to left-handers, changeups to those guys as well.
"Changeups to right-handers, maybe in some situations I wouldn't have used them and kind of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations as far as pitch selection. Using pitches that I would like to throw during the season at some point but I'm probably not all that confident in at the time. That's how you gain confidence in them."
Morrow's goal for Wednesday afternoon was to get through three innings of work, but he fell just short of that because of Toronto's lackluster defense. A pair of errors in the first inning led to an elevated pitch count, and Morrow was forced to depart just one batter into the third.
Despite that, Toronto's No. 2 starter allowed just one unearned run and one walk while striking out three. The fact that he was at least able to come out for the beginning of the third inning was another step in building his endurance.
"Getting out for the third inning is big because you get to sit down and stand up and get your eight warmups and make your pitches to get to the pitch count," Morrow said. "That's kind of the biggest thing, is to get at least into the inning we wanted to get to."
Rasmus on pace to return Thursday
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Colby Rasmus is expected to return to the Blue Jays' lineup Thursday afternoon against the Orioles.
Rasmus has been out with a sore right shoulder since Feb. 27 but now appears to be on the verge of getting back into the lineup.
The 26-year-old went through a full day of workouts Wednesday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Fla., while his teammates made the trip to Lakeland for an afternoon affair against the Tigers.
"Hopefully he'll get a full workout today and everything goes well, then he'll go tomorrow," manager John Gibbons said from Lakeland. "But he should be fine."
Rasmus did in fact get the workouts in as he went through batting practice and light fielding drills. The injury was never considered serious, but his return will still be an encouraging sign for a player who has appeared in just three games this spring.