The Blue Jays came into spring training with a few questions to be answered on their roster. As of yet, they don’t have everything resolved, and injuries have given them a few additional concerns. While indestructible mountain Josh Donaldson appears to be fully on the road to recovery, the Jays still have Steve Pearce, Devon Travis, and Dalton Pompey dinged up, and now Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton are hurt as well, throwing their status for opening day into question.
While there’s definitely reason to be concerned about this given that it encompasses a few everyday positions, it’s a good rule to not fret too much about the opening day roster. The lineup for game 1 will not be the same as the one for game 162, or even game 30. Over the last three years, the following players have been on the Jays’ opening day rosters: Arnold Leon, Ryan Tepera, Jesse Chavez, Steve Tolleson, Colt Hynes, Jeremy Jeffress (before he was good), and Moises Sierra. For those of us worrying (correctly, it should be noted) about the left field spot, we need only look as far back as 2015, when Dalton Pompey broke camp as the starting centre fielder, before Kevin Pillar put down roots in the position.
This isn’t to dismiss legitimate worries, as the Jays have more than a few. There’s some uncertainty in the bullpen, and good gravy, how does a team go into an offseason with this many available first basemen and come away sticking with Justin Smoak as the starter? There’s also that potential chasm in left field, amplified by bad injury luck of all the available candidates. Darrell Ceciliani might think twice about taking that position, lest he pull a hamstring coming out of the dugout.
Our past can help us inform how we should perceive our future. This time last year, we were wondering if Aaron Sanchez was going to be in the rotation, counting on Drew Storen for important bullpen innings, pondering if Kevin Pillar would last as the leadoff hitter, and trying to decide if J.A. Happ’s late season showing with the Pirates was a mirage. Some of that seems laughable now, doesn’t it? Sanchez made the all-star team, Happ was sixth in the Cy Young voting, Storen started badly and got traded, and the Jays soon learned what we all suspected about Pillar as a leadoff hitter (that it was a terrible idea) and he was promptly returned to the bottom of the order.
This also isn’t meant to wave away the fun of speculation. Part of the joy of baseball is talking over the options; fun bar and Twitter discussions are a part of why we enjoy it. The opening in left field means we can have #ZekeSquad or #FreePompey or #DelvinForMelvin, as we wrap our heads around which option we prefer, or think will perform best in a particular position. We can talk ourselves into Justin Smoak, or the idea that Kevin Pillar can hit enough to occupy an essential lineup spot.
But when that first roster comes out, let’s not worry too much about the details. It’s for the first game of a 162 game season, and over the last few years, Blue Jays fans should know that things can change very quickly. Players will be better or worse than we think, and get demoted or traded or moved into larger roles. We can wishcast and speculate all we want, but let’s not worry too much about seventh relievers and bench guys when we’ll see more than a few of them in the Rogers Centre dugout before the season is said and done.
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