2023-02-24 · 3 min read · MLB/Baseball
Jays Yusei Kikuchi and Alejandro Kirk

Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Baseball is back, or at least it will be soon.
Less than 2 days away from Toronto’s first Spring Training game, it’s almost time for all of us folks in Toronto - freezing cold, covered in snow - to turn our attention to the least-important baseball game of the next seven-plus months.
The first of thirty-three Grapefruit League games will see the likes of Yusei Kikuchi, Zach Thompson, and Trent Thornton toe the rubber, among others for the Blue Jays. Overreactions aplenty will arise, as the polarizing now-bearded Kikuchi looks to find his place in a crowded Toronto pitching staff which could very well see him competing against Thompson and Thorton by the end of camp.
Alongside everyone on the 40-man, it’s worth noting who else fans will be seeing around this Spring:
  • Ricky Tiedemann - LHP
  • Jimmy Robbins - LHP
  • Brandon Eisert - LHP
  • Jimmy Burnette - LHP
  • Junior Fernandez - RHP
  • Adrian Hernandez - RHP
  • Bowden Francis - RHP
  • Matt Peacock - RHP
  • Jackson Rees - RHP
  • Hayden Juenger - RHP
  • Sem Robberse - RHP
  • Phil Clarke - C
  • Andres Sosa - INF
  • Zach Britton - OF
  • Paul Fry - LHP
  • Luke Bard - RHP
  • Julian Fernandez - RHP
  • Drew Hutchison - RHP
  • Jay Jackson - RHP
  • Casey Lawrence - RHP
  • Stevie Berman - C
  • Rob Brantly - C
  • Vinny Capra - INF
  • Wynton Bernard - OF
Twenty-four total invitees to Major League camp, alongside a smattering of top prospects throughout the organization’s various levels. Primarily depth, with an outside possibility of perhaps one or two being added to the 40-man roster (which is currently full) at the end of Spring Training should their performance(s) warrant an addition.
In Active Roster news, 2022 All-Star Alejandro Kirk - scheduled to participate in this year’s World Baseball Classic for Mexico - has yet to arrive in camp as he awaits the birth of his child. Publicly, Toronto cannot show any influence towards Kirk withdrawing from Team Mexico. Privately, they most certainly have. “You’re getting to the point where you really have to make the best decision for the club.” Manager John Schneider said on Wednesday, regarding Kirk’s absence.
While there is little concern for Kirk not being ready for Opening Day, attention shifts to Danny Jansen’s Grapefruit League performance every hour in which Kirk isn’t in Dunedin. The only other “catcher” on the 40-man is Daulton Varsho, who isn’t a primary catcher anymore and has only caught in 82 games over three seasons with Arizona. Rob Brantly, Stevie Berman, and Phil Clarke are next in line.
On the opposite side of the battery, fireballers Nate Pearson and Yosver Zulueta have been drawing oohs and ahhs as both feel and look good. "He looks really comfortable in his own skin right now. His stuff is outstanding. He knows who he is as a pitcher right now." Pitching Coach Pete Walker said about Pearson, who’s looking to finally put together a completely healthy season. On Zulueta, expectations are that he will make his MLB debut at some point this year barring injury.
In non-Toronto, Canadian baseball news, BC’s Nick Pivetta has opted out of the World Baseball Classic for Canada due to health concerns after contracting COVID prior to Spring Training. The pride of Victoria will look to prepare for the ‘23 season in Boston’s camp, as he admitted “It was a really difficult decision.” The righty participated in 2017 for Team Canada, and was one of a number of planned returnees for this year’s. In his place, Ben Onyshko - a lefty in Seattle’s system - will join Canada’s squad.
The first pitch flies at 1:05 pm in Bradenton, with Mitch Keller getting the “start” for the Pirates.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Gus Cousins


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