DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have decided to stick with the status quo, as they announced Wednesday morning that incumbent Roberto Osuna will remain in his closer's role over newcomer Drew Storen.
Osuna initially won the job last season and proceeded to post 20 saves with a 2.58 ERA in 69 2/3 innings. The success he enjoyed in 2015, combined with a strong Spring Training, was enough to hold off Storen for the coveted position.
"That's a big part -- familiarity," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of whether last year's performance played a role in choosing Osuna. "We know him well, I know him well ... We'll see how it all shakes out in the end. If we need to make adjustments, we'll make adjustments."
The closer's role had been a hotly debated topic the last several weeks, with plenty of speculation over what the Blue Jays would ultimately decide. One school of thought was that Osuna deserved to keep the job after a strong 2015 campaign, while others suggested Storen's overall experience should win out.
The two relievers were frequently asked for their thoughts on the competition, and they both said all of the right things about accepting whatever role the club had in store. Even so, Storen likely has to be disappointed with the latest development as he enters his final year before free agency in a setup role.
Osuna, on the other hand, has plenty of reason to celebrate after he managed to hang on to the job. The 21-year-old has allowed two runs while striking out five and issuing two walks in six innings this spring. The native of Mexico was willing to take on any role, but he also had a clear preference to close and Osuna now will get that opportunity.
"I'm pretty happy to be in the ninth inning again," said Osuna, who admitted he felt 50-50 on whether or not he would get the job. "[It's] not too much about what I did last year, but about the confidence that [pitching coach] Pete Walker and the coaching staff, Gibby, are giving to me. That means a lot to me, and obviously I'm going to do my best."
Right-hander Marco Estrada is set to begin the year on the disabled list and will not make his first start of the season until April 10 against Boston. Estrada had a sore back early in camp and needs a little bit more time to get ready for the season, which allowed Toronto to go with an extra man early on.
The Blue Jays will begin the year in the bullpen with the final three spots announced Wednesday morning. Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte was the odd man out, and he will begin the year with Triple-A Buffalo, while Biagini, Leon and Tepera all cracked the roster. Brett Cecil, Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez round out the bullpen, alongside Storen and Osuna.
Leon is out of options and cannot be sent to the Minors without clearing waivers. As a Rule 5 pick, Biagini also had to make the 25-man roster, otherwise the Blue Jays would have been forced to offer him back to the Giants for $25,000.
"We had so many guys who had great springs, there were really some tough decisions," Gibbons said. "But we're in a position that we want to win something this year, so if we have to make changes as we go along, we'll bring the best guys along. But I tip my hat to all of the guys, they all performed well."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Set to serve as the stopper for a team that remains mostly intact after coming within two games of playing in the 2015 World Series, Osuna has the potential to save 40 games and rank as a borderline top-tier closer. The right-hander posted a 2.58 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and a 9.7 K/9 rate in his debut season, and he should be a four-category contributor for the entirety of '16. Now that Storen is expected to work in a setup role, he can be shipped to waivers in shallow formats. Osuna owners in deep mixed leagues can consider rostering Storen, as the 28-year-old could win several games and log excellent ratios.