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Oliver's return strengthens Blue Jays' bullpen

The SportsXchange

The return of Darren Oliver as the Toronto Blue Jays' main left-handed reliever increases the competition for jobs in the bullpen at spring training.

"It's going to be a very competitive camp," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.

Oliver does not have to worry about earning a spot, obviously. Casey Janssen, who became last year's closer; Sergio Santos, who was the closer in April until a shoulder injury ended his season; and Esmil Rogers also are considered locks for bullpen jobs, Anthopoulos said.

That would leave right-handers Steve Delabar, Brad Lincoln and Jeremy Jeffress competing for two jobs and left-handers Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and J.A. Happ competing for one spot.

Both Cecil and Happ have been starters in the majors. Happ could still find some starts if the situation arose, but it appears that Cecil's future with Toronto is in the bullpen.

Anthopoulos said the plan for Lincoln is to have him stretched out during spring training to provide depth in case there is a need for a right-handed starter. If Lincoln does not make the club as a reliever, he will be used as a starter at Class AAA Buffalo.

Recently Anthopoulos said he felt that Oliver was going to retire to spend more time with his family. The return should make the Blue Jays that much stronger.

"It's huge," Anthopoulos said. "'Huge' isn't even a strong enough word. You're talking about a left-hander that keeps putting up two ERAs (2.06 last season) and gets better every single year, which is amazing."
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