DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With Brett Cecil seemingly headed for the closer's role this season, there appears to be an increased desire from the Blue Jays to carry a third left-hander in the bullpen.
Cecil originally was expected to split the closer's job with right-hander Aaron Sanchez, but that plan changed when Marcus Stroman suffered a season-ending left knee injury. That created a need for Sanchez in the rotation, and the trickle-down effect of that could impact the bullpen in more ways than one.
If the Blue Jays intend to use Cecil as the primary closer, that eliminates one lefty who could be used in the middle innings. Aaron Loup can still be found in that role, but manager John Gibbons admitted it would be "ideal" if the Blue Jays could add another left-hander into the mix.
That's where veteran Jeff Francis might come into play, while Colt Hynes also likely will receive some consideration over the final three weeks of Spring Training.
"He's a different type pitcher now, but I could see a place on this team for him because [for] one thing, he's going to come out and throw strikes, and that's so valuable coming out of the bullpen," Gibbons said of Francis. "You don't want to bring in guys trying to find the strike zone.
"He can be tough on lefties, but he can also get righties out. I think, too, coming out of the bullpen in that role, that can extend his career another four or five years. He's a great competitor."
Cecil and Loup are the only relievers with guaranteed jobs this spring. Right-hander Steve Delabar, prospect Miguel Castro and right-hander Wilton Lopez appear to be favorites for three other spots, while Marco Estrada will join the mix if left-hander Daniel Norris wins the final spot in the rotation.
That would leave the final spot in the bullpen likely coming down to a competition between right-hander Todd Redmond and the lefties Francis and Hynes. There are a number of other candidates also technically in the mix and no official announcements are expected for another couple of weeks, but Gibbons admits he has already started making cuts in his head.
"It's getting to be about that time," Gibbons said. "But an outing or two could also change that too a little bit. Everybody puts their own game plan together, and at the end we'll kind of mesh them all together and see what we've got. ... I think [for] a number of guys it will go down to the wire."