Race for Toronto closer going down to wire

Front office, coaching staff to name Storen or Osuna later this month

Race for Toronto closer going down to wire

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Blue Jays still don't have a timetable to name an official closer, but when the decision is eventually made, it won't be based on results from Spring Training.

Toronto likely already has a preferred candidate between Drew Storen and Roberto Osuna, but a final call will not be announced until members of the coaching staff and front office sit down for meetings later this month.

Storen has a proven track record, and last season the Blue Jays saw first-hand what Osuna can do in the ninth-inning role. That's why the two aren't necessarily competing; instead the club intends to debate the matter internally based on a lot more than Spring Training numbers.

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"I don't think we're looking at it like they're competing for it, because we know who both of them are," manager John Gibbons said. "We've seen Drew -- we didn't have him, but he was very good in that role with Washington. So to say, 'Hey, you have to come in here and win the job,' that's not realistic, that's not fair to him. And Osuna proved to us last year how good he is, so I don't think it's fair to him, either.

"We really just want to get both of them ready for the season, and it's just going to come down to how we want to shape it. We haven't decided, but it's getting to that point where we'll start doing some more talking about it."

Gibbons on pitching staff

Storen and Osuna have said all the right things about being willing to accept whatever role Toronto decides to give them. Even so, someone is going to be disappointed, and Gibbons admitted on Wednesday evening that he is not looking forward to having a conversation with whomever ends up being the odd man out.

The speculative favorite appears to be Storen, who has amassed 95 saves over parts of six years in the big leagues. The main argument for Osuna is that he performed admirably in the role last season, with 20 saves and a 2.58 ERA in 69 2/3 innings. It's a decision that will be made on gut feelings, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.

The good news is that no matter what happens, the Blue Jays appear to have a much stronger bullpen than they did a year ago. Last spring, Toronto was frantically auditioning a pair of rookies in Miguel Castro and Osuna in the hopes that the 20-year-olds would help salvage the lack of viable depth options.

This spring, Osuna has a year of experience under his belt, and Storen is a proven commodity. Add in Brett Cecil, possibly Aaron Sanchez, Gavin Floyd or Jesse Chavez, and there is a solid core. Over the last 12 months, the bullpen easily can be considered the biggest area of improvement for the club.

"Last year we were scrambling," Gibbons said. "We threw a lot of jobs up for grabs, and it was the two young guys, Castro coming out of the gates -- we didn't expect him to make the team going into Spring Training. Really didn't know about Osuna, either, they both were very good and made the team. But it's a lot more settled this year, now the only question is who is doing what."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.