TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have officially finalized their 25-man roster in advance of Tuesday's Opening Day game against the Indians.
There were no surprises included in the announcement, while third baseman Brett Lawrie and right-handers Dustin McGowan and Michael Schwimer were placed on the 15-day disabled list.
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.
Dickey gets acclimated to Rogers Centre mound
TORONTO -- R.A. Dickey put himself through a light throwing program on Sunday to get acclimated with the mound at Rogers Centre.
Dickey arrived in Toronto along with the rest of his teammates on Saturday night in advance of Tuesday's Opening Day game versus the Indians.
Toronto's ace will get the start in the evening matchup, but he wanted to get a feel for his surroundings before taking the mound in front of a sold-out crowd.
"The reason that I'm here is imminent," said Dickey, who went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA last season. "To get to stand on the mound and kind of get comfortable with my surroundings, it was a real treat to get to do.
"You don't often get the chance to pitch off the game mound before you get on it for real, but that was necessary for me just to get comfortable with the climate with the roof closed. It was special and it left me anticipating a very fun night."
Dickey has the added benefit of having pitched in two domes this spring. The veteran right-hander started at Chase Field in Arizona and Marlins Park in Miami while competing for Team USA in the recent World Baseball Classic.
In many ways, that was a perfect tuneup for his outing at Rogers Centre. It's expected to be an energetic crowd, and while having the roof closed should make the atmosphere that much louder, it also has the potential as an added benefit to the knuckleballer.
Dickey has performed well in controlled pitching environments during his career. He has a 1.72 ERA in 52 2/3 innings indoors during the past three seasons since becoming one of the more reliable pitchers in the big leagues.
"I think the obvious answer is that it is a controlled environment," Dickey said of the benefits. "The climate's not an issue, you don't have to worry about wind gusts, you don't have to worry about rain and moisture. It's usually the same temperature ... The conditions you don't have to worry about.
"I usually have fairly good numbers inside of domes. Here in particular, going off yesterday's knuckleball on a game mound and the conditions there were here yesterday, I was very encouraged. I'm not going to make any predictions, but it felt good coming out of my hand and that's a good sign."
Lawrie remains in Florida, but injury deemed short-term
TORONTO -- There is still no definitive timetable on when third baseman Brett Lawrie will be able to make his return to the lineup.
Toronto's third baseman remained in Florida to go through rehab for a strained left oblique muscle. Lawrie resumed throwing on Monday morning, and the hope is that he'll be able to appear in a Minor League game by the weekend.
"He didn't reinjure it at all, but we thought we were rushing him too much," manager John Gibbons said. "Today he'll go out and play some catch, and then little by little, he'll get back into swinging the bat in the cage and hopefully get him into a game by the weekend.
"I think we were a little bit overly optimistic after it first happened, but once he gets here, we don't want that to be a problem at all the rest of the year, so we're going to be smart with it. But I would say within the next couple of weeks."
The original hope for Lawrie was that he would be ready for Opening Day, but that changed over the final week and a half of camp. Lawrie's injury didn't improve quite as expected, but the club still considers it a relatively short-term issue.
Toronto officially placed Lawrie on the 15-day disabled Monday morning. The move is retroactive to March 22, which means he could be activated on Saturday. But in all likelihood, he will need at least a couple of more days after that to get ready for the season.
The Blue Jays are expected to use a platoon at third base during his absence. Infielder Maicer Izturis will get the start versus righties while Mark DeRosa will make an occasional start against left-handers.
Once Lawrie does return, Toronto will go back to a seven-man bullpen. That likely will leave either Brett Cecil or Jeremy Jeffress on the outside looking in. Both relievers are out of options on their contracts and must clear waivers before being assigned to the Minor Leagues.