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With opening day on horizon, one note on every player still in Jays camp

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Toronto Blue Jays Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - The Canadian Press

With a little more than two weeks to go until opening day and a season-opening 10-game road trip that will test the Toronto Blue Jays in an intriguing way early on, the camp roster has mostly been whittled down to the core names battling for jobs.

Not that there are a ton of actual roster spots up for grabs, but a handful of injuries have the potential to change the complexion of the pitching staff for the opening four-gamer against the Tampa Bay Rays at The Trop.

Broken down into locked-in, battling for jobs, and likely Triple-A bound, here’s one note on where each player still in camps stands as of Tuesday.

Arms locked into roster spots

RHP - Kevin Gausman

The ace has not pitched yet this spring due to shoulder fatigue, but the veteran righty is trending in the right direction and could see game action in the next week or so. At this point, he’s likely not an option for the first turn through the rotation, forcing a shuffle of some sort.

RHP - Jose Berrios

Gausman being behind has Berrios in line to take the ball on opening day against the Rays on March 28. Berrios has added a cutter to his arsenal this spring, giving him a five-pitch mix alongside his sinker, four-seamer, changeup and slurve.

RHP - Chris Bassitt

Business as usual for the wily veteran, whose rubber arm becomes even more important if they don’t have Gausman’s usual six-to-seven strong frames early on.

LHP - Yusei Kikuchi

He owns a 12.46 ERA this spring and Baltimore Orioles top prospect Jackson Holliday took him deep lefty-on-lefty the other day … but it’s still March, so nothing to fret about.

RHP - Jordan Romano

The Canadian closer has looked filthy this spring. Enough said.

RHP - Erik Swanson

With his four-year-old son Toby recovering well from being hit by a car, Swanson is slowly ramping back up and is expected to be ready to go when the season starts.

LHP - Tim Mayza

The lefty is already in mid-season form, having not allowed an earned run across four outings.

RHP - Chad Green

In four appearances, he’s allowed three homers, but the veteran right-hander has been around long enough that no one is the least bit concerned.

RHP - Yimi Garcia

Same for Garcia, who’s allowed two homers this spring while getting his March work in.

LHP - Genesis Cabrera

After registering a 2.66 ERA across his 29 appearances with the Jays last year, Cabrera has picked up where he left off with his newfound command and has the potential to be a very underrated arm in the Jays 'pen this season as the second lefty behind Mayza.

RHP - Trevor Richards

His bread-and-butter changeup continues to look nasty at times, but he also continues to look susceptible to the long ball and handing out too many free passes at times.

RHP - Mitch White

Last year’s late-season velocity surge has carried over this spring, with White sitting mid-90s and touching 97 mph. The fact he’s out of options means he’s the favourite to lock down the final bullpen job, potentially in some sort of piggyback situation with Bowden Francis in the No. 5 rotation spot.

RHP - Bowden Francis

Pitching staffs are capped at 13 and with White being out of options, Francis might’ve been the odd man out if Alek Manoah was healthy. With 10 punch-outs across eight frames, Francis has earned a roster spot.

Bats locked into roster spots

RF - George Springer

Springer traditionally ramps up very slowly during spring training, but he’s already shown some pop and that’s a great sign coming off a down power year with a career-worst .405 slugging percentage in 2023.

SS - Bo Bichette

Heading into Grapefruit League play on Tuesday, Bichette had already piled up 13 hits in 30 at-bats. He’s priming himself for a career year in his sixth big-league season.

1B - Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

It’s ominous that Vladdy is already battling a left knee issue as well as a jammed finger, forcing the Jays to be extra cautious with a hitter so key to the club’s hopes this season. He’s got two weeks to get right.

DH - Justin Turner

With more walks than strikeouts and a .300-plus average, Turner looks ready for his first season in Toronto. He’s the key bat behind the big boys and the front office has bet on him continuing to be productive in his age-39 season.

C - Alejandro Kirk

Maybe the most positive story in terms of position players, Kirk hitting three homers in eight games is a good sign his power blip from a year ago was just that — a blip. The Jays need the 2022 version of Kirk in the middle of the lineup.

C - Danny Jansen

For the oft-injured Jansen, there’s only one goal — get out of the month of March with his health intact. So far, so good.

LF - Daulton Varsho

Cutting down on the swing and miss was a goal for Varsho heading into camp and he’s done just that with six walks and just one strikeout across his first 22 at-bats this spring. He’s one of the most important supplemental pieces on the roster and an offensive breakout would do wonders for this lineup.

CF - Kevin Kiermaier

Another veteran who’s just fine-tuning things and trying to avoid getting nicked up in games that do not count.

3B - Isiah Kiner-Falefa

The front office bet $15 million that IKF can find another level with the bat, but it’s the glove that’s likely to provide most of his value at the hot corner. The offensive contributions are going to be heavily scrutinized once the games start to count.

2B/OF - Cavan Biggio

A shoulder injury slowed him at the start of camp, but Biggio finally got into game action and has started hot with three doubles in his first eight at-bats. He’s going to get a lot of playing time early at second base.

2B/LF - Davis Schneider

The concern with Schneider is the strikeout rate and that has not gone away one bit as he’s already struck out nine times in 23 at-bats. But he’s also swatted two homers and doesn’t seem to be at risk of losing his opening day roster spot thanks to that power.

Still battling for jobs

SS/2B - Ernie Clement

The most interesting area of the roster is manager John Schneider’s bench, where Danny Jansen and Davis Schneider are locked into two of the four jobs available. After that, it’s muddy, with Clement and Santiago Espinal vying for the backup middle infield role, and then Daniel Vogelbach, Joey Votto and outfielder Nathan Lukes in the mix for the final roster spot as a left-handed corner bat option. Clement being out of options and having a strong spring means he may have jumped Espinal, who can be optioned to Triple-A. Clement has been raking with 10 hits in 25 at-bats heading into Tuesday.

SS/2B - Santiago Espinal

A lack of power limits Espinal’s upside and with prospects like Orelvis Martinez, Leo Jimenez and Addison Barger all bubbling up to the MLB surface, Espinal’s days in Toronto may be numbered.

OF - Nathan Lukes

One thing to keep in mind over the final days of spring training when teams start making cuts is can the Jays find a fourth outfielder upgrade on waivers? Of course, there’s also a number of bats remaining on the free agent market that could also help. Lukes has two options remaining and can be sent down without worry.

1B - Spencer Horwitz

Two hits in 26 at-bats plus Votto’s signing means Horwitz is likely to spend a lot of time in Triple-A this year, where he really has nothing left to prove after putting up a .337/.450/.495 slash line in 107 games last year.

1B - Joey Votto (NRI)

He passed his physical, which means the 40-year-old’s surgically repaired shoulder has checked out, but he’s going to slowly ramp up in minor-league games soon and doesn’t seem to be an option for the opening day roster.

1B - Daniel Vogelbach (NRI)

The big fella has swatted a pair of homers, but the Votto signing gives Vogelbach a tiny window to impress Jays decision-makers. As a non-roster invite, they’ll also have to find room on the 40-man roster, but there’s no arguing Vogelbach’s ability to contribute against right-handed pitching.

3B - Eduardo Escobar (NRI)

After posting an ugly 66 wRC+ last season and coming to camp as a non-roster invite, the 35-year-old has just two knocks in 27 at-bats. He’s not going to make this team.

RHP - Alek Manoah

The presumed fifth starter a few weeks ago, Manoah has been battling shoulder soreness and will likely have to start the year on the IL. In his only appearance, Manoah hit three batters and hasn’t been seen since.

Likely Triple-A bound

LHP - Ricky Tiedemann

Finally healthy, the Jays are simply hoping it stays that way in order to get their top prospect rolling at Triple-A for the first couple of months. If that happens, he could help the rotation out come summer, but an innings limit will be in play at some point.

RHP - Yariel Rodriguez

Slowed by back spasms this spring, the Jays’ $32-million Cuban signing is likely to be stretched out at Triple-A to start the season. While the club sees him as a starter long-term, Rodriguez will have an innings limit in play, limiting the impact he can have a starter in year one in Toronto.

RHP - Wes Parsons

He’s emergency rotation depth at Triple-A, and the Jays will have to hope he’s not needed at any point early in the season. His 40-man spot could be in jeopardy at some point.

RHP - Hagen Danner

These next three names are the first layer of bullpen depth available at Triple-A in case of injury. Danner has looked sharp this spring.

LHP - Brendon Little

Quietly acquired from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for cash way back in November, Little is third in the organizational lefty pecking order behind Mayza and Cabrera. He’s shown sneaky good stuff this spring with his mid-90s heater.

RHP - Zach Pop

Coming off an up-and-down 2023 season, five scoreless appearances is exactly what the Jays wanted to see out of the Canadian with the heavy sinker. Without a late injury, he’s ticketed for Buffalo.

RHP - Nate Pearson

He’s added a splitter to his arsenal and the stuff has looked at elite at times this spring. Despite that, the results have been up and down and the depth ahead of him means he’ll be back in Triple-A to start the year.