As expected, the Blue Jays will open the year with an eight-man bullpen, which leaves just three players available off the bench. With the roster set, the wait is now over and Toronto will soon find out if the club is prepared to meet its heightened expectations this season.
"I think we recognize, the baseball world recognizes, that we should have a good ballclub," manager John Gibbons said. "We expect to win some things this year.
"We just have to step up and answer the bell. That won't be easy, because there are a lot of good teams in the league. But there's no doubt, there's definitely a different atmosphere than I've ever experienced here."
Toronto will be looking to improve on its 73-89 record and fourth-place finish from last season. The anticipation was built during a busy offseason during which the Blue Jays acquired the likes of R.A Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera.
The new recruits have brought renewed hope that this could finally be the season the Blue Jays snap a 20-year drought and find their way back into the postseason.
The pressure that the Blue Jays find themselves under prompted a speech from Gibbons prior to his team departing Spring Training in Florida. The message was short and to the point as everybody gears up for Game 1 of the 162-game grind.
"I told them, 'Listen, we have a good ballclub, there's a lot expected of us, but don't get caught up in all of the hype,'" Gibbons said. "Don't get distracted by it is what I meant.
"We still have to go out and play good baseball or we're not going to win anything. I don't care how talented you are; if you don't play good baseball, forget it. Sometimes when there are high expectations, you get a little bit distracted, especially early on ... you can't get caught up in that."
Toronto's starting rotation will feature Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Buehrle, Johnson and J.A. Happ. The bullpen will include closer Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Steve Delabar, Esmil Rogers, Aaron Loup, Brett Cecil and Jeremy Jeffress.
The starting nine is expected to include Reyes, Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, J.P. Arencibia, Colby Rasmus, Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis. Utility man Mark DeRosa, outfielder Rajai Davis and veteran catcher Henry Blanco will round out the short bench.