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Toronto Blue Jays: Spring training preview

Rotation station: The Blue Jays rotation that led the majors in ERA last season (3.72) is now filled with question marks. Gone is A.J. Burnett (signed with Yankees), with Dustin McGowan (shoulder surgery, out until possibly June) and Shaun Marcum (elbow, out for season) on the shelf. So now, with ace Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch and David Purcey penciled in, there should be good competition for the final two spots between RHPs Casey Janssen and Scott Richmond, along with prospects Brett Cecil, Brad Mills and Ricky Romero among others.

Wells' health: CF Vernon Wells, who strained his left hamstring Monday, appears optimistic he can return in a few weeks, a timetable quicker than the club's original estimate of a month. Wells was sidelined with a similar injury last season, when he hit .300 with 20 homers and 78 RBIs in 108 games. The offensive punch is sorely needed for a club that ranked 11th in the American League in runs last year.

Snider ready?: Touted OF prospect Travis Snider has a good chance to break camp and be the starting leftfielder. But Snider, the 2006 first-round pick, likely has to continue to impress this spring. Snider was promoted from Triple A last year and hit .301 with 13 RBIs in 24 games in the big leagues. If Snider needs more seasoning, Adam Lind is an option in left.

Key additions: C Michael Barrett, RHP Matt Clement, LHP Mike Maroth, C Raul Chavez, DH Randy Ruiz, SS Brandon Fahey, LHP Brian Burres — Clement, Maroth and Burres could also compete for one of the final rotation spots.

Key losses: RHP Burnett, C Gregg Zaun, OF Brad Wilkerson, LHP John Parrish — Burnett, one of the league's top pitchers, will leave the biggest shoes to fill.

Prospect to watch: Cecil, a 22-year-old left-hander, is a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, having gone 9-5 with a 2.41 ERA over four minor-league levels in his first two pro seasons.

Ticket info: From $13-$25 plus $3 surcharge per order, reserved by writing to Blue Jays Spring Training Tickets, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin, 34698; by phone at (727) 733-0429 or (888) 525-5297; or online at bluejays.com.

Toronto Blue Jays: Spring training preview 02/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 12:18am]
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