With third baseman Scott Rolen and closer B.J. Ryan set to open the season on the disabled list, the Blue Jays gave reliever Randy Wells and outfielder Buck Coats the nod to head north with the team for Opening Day. Even with injuries already affecting decisions, Gibbons is optimistic about the group Toronto has in place.
"I really like it," said Gibbons, referring to his roster. "I liked it coming in. I think we're solid top to bottom, and we didn't have to answer too many question marks. Now, we just have to go out and do it."
Wells was called into Gibbons' office early on Wednesday to receive the news, and the rookie right-hander admitted to being a little surprised. Working in Wells' favor was the fact that he was selected by Toronto in the Rule 5 Draft during the Winter Meetings in December. If he didn't make the roster, the Jays would have been required to offer him back to the Cubs.
Even so, general manager J.P. Ricciardi said that the final spot in the bullpen came down to Wells and left-hander Jesse Carlson. Depth became the deciding factor, and keeping Wells in the fold allows Toronto to also keep Carlson on the chart in the Minor Leagues.
"The whole idea is to keep as many of them as you can," Ricciardi said. "The last two guys were Carlson and Wells. We know we control Carlson, and he's going to go to Triple-A and have a chance to pitch there. Wells has done a good job."
The 25-year-old Wells joins a bullpen that also includes Jeremy Accardo, Scott Downs, Brandon League, Brian Tallet, Jason Frasor and Brian Wolfe. Carlson, along with pitchers John Parrish, Mike Gosling, Shawn Camp and Armando Benitez, will head to Triple-A to open the season.
"When you break it down and you listen up and you look around the clubhouse," Wells said, "there's four or five really good pitchers that were battling for that last spot. To come out on top feels good. Those guys deserve it, too. I probably had a little bit of an advantage with the whole Rule 5 thing, but I did what I had to do."
What Wells did was give up exactly zero runs in six innings over seven appearances this spring. His impressive showing during Spring Training aside, Toronto knew that Wells -- a converted catcher -- had appealing Minor League statistics as well. In five seasons within the Cubs' farm system, Wells went 30-22 with a 3.73 ERA in 152 games, including 58 starts.
Last season, Wells went 5-6 with a 4.52 ERA in 40 games, striking out 101 and walking 41 in 95 2/3 innings for Triple-A Iowa. This past offseason, he worked on adding a two-seam sinking fastball to his pitch arsenal, and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg helped him develop the pitch further this spring.
"If you look at [Wells'] Minor League numbers, his Minor League numbers are good, too," Ricciardi said. "He's always struck guys out. He's not a big walk guy. He's pitched at Triple-A, so he's been around. He's a converted catcher, so he's still a relatively fresh arm. He's still a guy who hasn't been taxed a lot."
Ryan, who is coming back from major reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, will open the year on the DL, and he will be unavailable until at least mid-April. Rolen suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right middle finger and had surgery on the finger on Monday. Rolen -- also headed to the DL -- could miss the first few weeks of April as a result of the injury.
With Rolen out of the picture for the time being, utility man Marco Scutaro will open the year as Toronto's third baseman. Rolen's absence created a need for an extra position player, and Coats -- acquired in a trade with the Reds in December -- was the Jays' choice. Coats can help in the outfield and as a pinch-runner.
"I was surprised, because I didn't really expect it," Coats said. "I feel good. My goal in Spring Training was to come out and show them what I can do, because the guys had never seen me play. That's what happened, and good things happened, and here I am."
This spring, the 25-year-old Coats posted a .357 average with one home run and three RBIs in 16 games entering Wednesday. Last season, Coats hit .308 with 11 homers and 63 RBIs in 127 games between stints with Triple-A Iowa and Triple-A Louisville. He also has had brief big league stints with both the Cubs and Reds.
"He's a guy that we've been trying to get for a couple of years," Ricciardi said. "He's athletic, and he can play all three outfield positions. He throws well. He runs well. We didn't anticipate him being on our club.
"We thought we'd send him to Triple-A and let him play center field every day and then next year have to make a decision. If he had to be a guy that came up and played for us in an emergency, we'd be fine. But he's had a great camp."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less