Saunders back, is Tolleson the one to go?

 OF Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC) is about to come off the disabled list … and Andrew Hendriks tries to answer the question who departs?

When Michael Saunders arrived in Dunedin this February, the freshly minted Blue Jay was eager to make a strong impression with his new ball club.

Fresh off an injury riddled season that limited then 27 year-old outfielder to a mere 78 games with the 85-75 Seattle Mariners, Saunders spent his off-season working diligently in an attempt to better condition himself for the rigors of an upcoming 162 game campaign.

Rejuvenated by an early December trade to Toronto, Saunders, a native of Victoria, BC, was provided with a fresh start and anxious to shake the reputation of an inconsistent, oft-injured, could be All-Star, the prospect of playing half his games within the hitter friendly confines of Rogers Center only fueled his desire to get out of the gate with a strong start.

Unfortunately, a sprinkler would delay the start to his 2015 season.

Now, with the meniscus cartridge removed from his left knee and a handful of spring training/ advanced-A games under his belt, Saunders is set to return to the Blue Jays this weekend in St Petersburg.

Of course, his arrival with the big club will force the Blue Jays into making a corresponding roster move … A move that will come at the expense of one of the current members on the 25-man squad and just who, exactly, will end up being sent down to triple-A Buffalo remains a hot topic prior to the opener at Tropicana Field.

As it stacks up, Toronto’s roster construction may provide some clues as to who will receive that disheartening call into John Gibbons office on Friday.

 

OUTFIELD
When Saunders went down prior to the start of Grape Fruit League action, the door was wedged wide open for Kevin Pillar to formally stake his claim to the vacant position.

The 26-year-old responded by putting forth an impressive offensive showing in Florida, one that he carried into the regular season as, laying off questionable pitches, Pillar has proved to be a tougher out in 2015… In addition to being a force defensively, leading all Major League outfielders in assists with four.

Handed the reigns to centre field following the departure of Colby Rasmusthis past winter, Dalton Pompey, at 22, was tasked with manning one of the more challenging positions on the diamond … For a team that’s expected to contend in 2015.

Through the first 15 games of the season, Pompey’s hitting .255 with a respectable OPS of .793 and, although looking over matched at times, its worth nothing that over his past eight games prior to Thursday night, Pompey has hit .379.

With Toronto enlisting the services of their infielders to help fill the vacancy left behind in the wake of Jose Bautista’s recent injury woes (right shoulder strain), it would be hard to imagine one of the clubs outfielders being moved in order to create room for Saunders later this week.

 

BULLPEN
When the Blue Jays recalled infielder, Ryan Goins late last week, the team opted to designate right-handed reliever, Todd Redmond for assignment, dropping their total of relievers from eight to the major league standard of seven.

Given the fact that only R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchison represent the only Blue Jays starters that have pitched into the seventh this season, it’s unlikely that the club will opt to drop a relief arm in order to reinstate Saunders.

 

INFIELD
Judging by the type of spring he had offensively, Goins should have been with the Jays to start the season. However, with options remaining on his contract, the 27 year-old middle infielder fell victim to the numbers game as, with promising reliever Liam Hendriks needing to stick with the team in order to avoid being exposed to irrevocable waivers, the slick gloved product of Round Rock, Tex. was sent to triple-A Buffalo.

As it stands, Goins, who has made an error in three of his past five games, can still be sent down without being exposed to the other 29 clubs.

After appearing in a career high 109 games with the Blue Jays in 2014, Steve Tolleson showed up in Dunedin with a set of surgically repaired eyes and a desire to stick with the big league club when camp broke at the beginning of April.

Under the Florida sun, the option-less Tolleson shined en route to posting an OPS of .963 in 20 grapefruit league contests. Numbers that easily warranted an extended look when the team headed north to kick off the regular season against the Yankees on April 6.

Striving to shake the reputation of a light hitting lefty killer, Tolleson’s play has been limited to only six games this season, splitting time with fellow lefty masher, Danny Valencia, who boasts a career OPS of .835 vs. left-handers.

Tolleson’s numbers in 2015 after a hitless Friday at Tropicana: 3-for-15 with a walk in 16 plate appearances. He misplayed a Kevin Kiermaier fly ball for a four-base error. Valencia, who comes with the stronger track record in the major leagues, has been sharper, racking up eight hits in a sample-sized 15 at bats with a pair of doubles.

At this point, having both Valencia and Tolleson on the roster creates a bit of a redundancy as both players fill similar roles for the Blue Jays and although sending the latter down to the minor leagues would run the risk of losing quality talent, Toronto’s need for an added outfielder could arguably trump the desire to retain his services unquestionably.

Could this be where the area in which Blue Jays choose to make a move?

Perhaps.

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Andrew Hendriks

Born in southern Ontario during the late 1980's, Hendriks had a front row seat to watch the Blue Jays reach the pinnacle in '92/'93 as a child, an experience that only bolstered this Canadian's love for the "American Game." Having played since before his memory allows access too, his passion for Baseball grew over years of emulating his heroes on the local sandlots, memorizing the backs of chewing gum scented cards and travelling across North America to experience as many aspects of the game as possible. In 2009, Hendriks began volunteering at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as a Weekend Tour Guide. By 2010, he was hired on to help curate for the museum & Instruct the fundamentals of the game along side such legends as Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar and Jim Fanning during the Hall's annual Kids On Deck program. Following the 2011 season, Hendriks began blogging and co-hosting a weekly podcast for www.BackInBlue.ca, a Blue Jays themed website ran by fans, for fans. Looking to continue connecting with baseball fans across the country, Hendriks is excited to join such a strong team at the Canadian Baseball Network and looks forward to chipping in.