Bullpen competition set to assume spotlight

Cecil the favorite to assume closer role, but handful of jobs up for grabs

Bullpen competition set to assume spotlight

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays entered Spring Training with a lot of question marks, and while many of them have been answered, the same can't necessarily be said about the bullpen.

The exact makeup of the bullpen is anyone's guess with three weeks remaining until Opening Day. Toronto technically has five jobs up for grabs, and while there are some clear front-runners, there have yet to be any official decisions.

With so many spots available, here's a closer look at which pitchers remain in the mix as the Blue Jays enter the final stretch of Spring Training:

Brett Cecil: The left-hander is the obvious choice to take over for Casey Janssen as Toronto's closer. He's never done the job on a full-time basis, but he does have six career saves, as well as more experience than anyone else in the bullpen. The 28-year-old missed the first two weeks of Spring Training with a left shoulder injury, but as long as he makes a full recovery, there doesn't appear to be much doubt that he'll be pitching the ninth inning.

Aaron Loup: The left-hander is the other reliever who arrived in camp with a guaranteed job. Loup was equally effective against lefties and righties last season, and that could put him into a setup role for Cecil. The one thing that manager John Gibbons will be cautious of is Loup's workload. The 27-year-old pitched at least 68 innings in each of the last two seasons, and staying healthy will be essential in a bullpen with this many question marks.

Outlook: Loup, RP, TOR

Steve Delabar: The righty is one of the biggest wild cards on this year's team, and while he's technically competing for a job, he should have a spot on Opening Day. Last year, Delabar dealt with injuries, and command has been an issue, but it's something he has been attempting to rectify this spring. The hard thrower claims he is feeling better than he has in two years, and so far this spring, he has allowed one run in four innings while striking out five.

Wilton Lopez: The right-hander's ability to stick around will come down to his command of the strike zone. He has six years of experience under his belt, but a high number of walks occasionally have led to his undoing. The 31-year-old signed a Minor League deal after an injury-plagued 2014 season with the Rockies, but from 2010-12, he posted an ERA under 3.00. Lopez should have the inside track on a bullpen spot, but two walks in four appearances this spring are at least mildly concerning.

Miguel Castro: The righty entered the spring as an extreme long shot to make the roster, but he has since earned a legitimate chance. Castro has never pitched above Class A, but the 21-year-old has the ability to throw in the upper 90s and has yet to be intimidated when facing big leaguers. A big test will come Tuesday night against New York, when Castro is scheduled for three innings under the bright lights of Steinbrenner Field. At this point, it seems like Castro might have to pitch his way off the roster -- instead of pitching his way onto it.

Marco Estrada: Estrada is competing for one of two spots in the Blue Jays' rotation, alongside Daniel Norris and Sanchez. It would appear as though Norris and Sanchez are the favorites to win those spots, which would leave Estrada available for the bullpen. The right-hander posted a 2.89 ERA out of the 'pen with Milwaukee last season, and he could be used either as a setup man or in long relief.

Outlook: Estrada, RP, TOR

Todd Redmond: The right-hander is known to be a favorite of Gibbons, but he might be facing an uphill battle to make this year's squad. The decision on whether or not to carry Redmond on the roster likely will come down to whether the club makes it a priority to add a third left-hander to the bullpen. If Toronto is fine with two lefties, Redmond should have a spot after posting 3.24 ERA as a long reliever last season. Redmond is out of options on his contract and would have to pass through waivers before getting sent to the Minors.

The third lefty: Gibbons has mentioned that it would be "ideal" if the Blue Jays had three left-handed relievers, with Cecil seemingly set for closer duties. Veterans Jeff Francis and Colt Hynes are currently receiving the most consideration. Francis was added on a Minor League deal, and he continues to transition from a starter to the full-time reliever role. Hynes was added on a waiver claim. and both pitchers currently appear to be ahead of Redmond on the depth chart because of situational needs.

The long shot: Right-hander Kyle Drabek is out of options, and time is running out for the Blue Jays to make a decision on his future. Drabek impressed with 1 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on Saturday, but he has yet to break through since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. Toronto could let options factor into this decision, but unless there's an injury, Drabek appears to be behind the eight ball.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.