Rising roster numbers show Blue Jays’ rebuild is truly underway

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TORONTO – Another batch of September call-ups joined the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday and pushed the number of active players inside a jammed clubhouse to 32, and counting. That’s approaching a spring-training-esque allotment of bodies to close out the 2018 season and manager John Gibbons suddenly finds himself with the needs of several more people to juggle.

What is he going to do with all those players?

“That’s a good question,” Gibbons said before a solid Ryan Borucki outing went to waste in a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night. “A lot of the guys that come up won’t necessarily play a lot, but I’ll make sure to try and get them in. I think that’s important.”

Joining the crowd earlier in the day were infielder Richard Urena, outfielders Jonathan Davis and Dwight Smith Jr., and first baseman Rowdy Tellez, while Jake Petricka was activated to replace Joe Biagini, who was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.

Outfielder Anthony Alford and catcher Reese McGuire are expected to come up later this month, Justin Shafer will be up once his 10-day option period expires while right-hander David Paulino, part of the return from Houston for Roberto Osuna, could be activated in the days ahead after recovering from a shoulder injury.

The advice from Gibbons to the kids?

“Just watch the game, basically enjoy it,” he said. “Don’t expect to take a ton of BP because we’re killing our coaches anyway. Don’t overdo it, put it that way. Just enjoy the experience, take advantage of it, watch and learn. They’ll all go to nice stadiums in our division, they’ll see all the primary places we play.

“I don’t know what else I’d tell them. Don’t eat too much of the food. You laugh, that happens a lot and they swell up.”

For now, the only thing swollen is the roster and there are a few reasons for that.

• Adding bodies, particularly on the pitching side, is necessary in part to survive the last leg of the six-month marathon that is the regular season, especially with Marcus Stroman’s season still uncertain due to his ongoing blister issues. Gibbons thinks Stroman should shut it down for the rest of the year but the right-hander hopes to keep pitching and they’ll re-evaluate in a couple of days to determine what he might be able to offer.

• In some cases, the Blue Jays are looking to reward players who have had good minor-league seasons with a touch of the big-leagues. Assistant GM Ben Cherington made the suggestion and certain players were promoted knowing their window of opportunity would be limited because the club already has several youngsters they’re promoting around the diamond.

• Finally, even though they won’t necessarily be playing much, the Blue Jays have a looming 40-man roster crunch coming and bubble players will be watched closely in how they go about their work, take in information and act as teammates. Right now, the 40 is full, Marco Estrada and Tyler Clippard are the only pending free agents left and Troy Tulowitzki will need to be re-instated from the 60-day DL. Players who must be added to the 40 or be exposed in the Rule 5 draft include right-handers Hector Perez, Jordan Romano, Jacob Waguespack and Corey Copping and outfielders Forrest Wall and Harold Ramirez, so the Blue Jays have lots of decisions to make.

The clubhouse is now a very different place.

“Definitely a change – for the last few years it’s been nothing but vets,” said Justin Smoak, suddenly among the few elder statesman left. “It’s weird, but I remember my first day like it was yesterday, I’ll never forget that memory. All these guys, it’s something they’ve worked for their entire baseball life, to try to get to this point, so it’s exciting for the young guys to be here and just get a taste of what it’s like and hopefully have some success.”

Of the position players, Urena (up the middle) and Davis (as a pinch-runner) are likely to get the most use, while the arms should be fairly busy.

Petricka, who is arbitation eligible, Thomas Pannone and Taylor Guerrieri logged the final three frames behind Borucki, who allowed two runs on three hits and two walks over six frames with five strikeouts.

The start was the 13th this year for the 24-year-old, who is almost like a veteran on a roster now dotted with rookies.

“Coming here in the beginning, it was cool having all these veteran guys,” said Borucki. “It’s also a very cool opportunity seeing all these guys I’ve played with in the minor-leagues. Rowdy, J.D. (Davis), I’ve been playing with those guys since 2014. It’s cool to see them move up the ranks and get their opportunity here.”

For the fans who have demanded a rebuild of the Blue Jays, well, this is it.

“I do think it’s important, especially in our situation, that these guys come up and they get a taste of it, they get a feel of it,” said Gibbons, adding later: “These are the guys that are part of the future. A lot of first-timers. Get that out of the way, they’ll know what to expect next year when that time comes – if it comes.”

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