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Francisco, Dotel likely to join Morrow on DL for Blue Jays

The 25-man roster the Toronto Blue Jays sport on opening day isn't likely to stay that way for long.

Even minor injuries will be factored in how the roster is set for April 1. No. 2 starter Brandon Morrow is already on the 15-day disabled with an inflammation in the flexor muscle of his right elbow.

Relievers Frank Francisco (chest, biceps) and Octavio Dotel (hamstring) are also slated to open the season on the DL, although the moves haven't been officially announced.

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The disabled list stints for all three can be retroactive to March 22, meaning they could miss roughly the first week of the season before being reinstated. When that happens there will be more roster shuffling.

Francisco was supposed to be the closer but that role will be taken by Jon Rauch.

There are questions, too, surrounding second baseman Aaron Hill, who has missed considerable time at spring training because of a right quadriceps strain. But he played three straight days before taking Friday off, creating optimism he can be ready to open the season if there are no further setbacks.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos has already said Francisco will open the season on the DL.

And Dotel talked to manager John Farrell on Friday morning about what he needs to do to be ready to open the season. But Farrell believes the right-hander probably won't have logged enough innings to be ready for the start of the year.

"We feel like there's a need for another five, maybe six, appearances, so that being said he will continue to pitch in minor-league games," Farrell said. "It's unlikely he starts the season with us due to the sheer need for those outings and the time left here in camp.

"But the most encouraging thing is he's feeling better with each outing."

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Farrell said Dotel's arm strength is where it should be judging by the velocity of his pitches.

"But he would feel much more comfortable, and this is a projection, on getting those additional outings, and we're going to provide them," Farrell said. "He's going to be a critical part of our bullpen when he's fully ready.

"So it's likely that we end up back-dating his DL stint. That would make him available sometime in the second week of April."

Farrell understands a player who has prepared all winter might feel frustrated about going on the DL to start the regular season for what seems to be a minor issue. But he said the team must consider the bigger picture.

"And we just don't want to let a minor physical issue grow into something greater and they're trying to play catchup for the rest of the season," Farrell said.

Morrow didn't want to go on the DL with what he felt was a minor problem. But he'll likely only miss one start as he's eligible to come off the DL on April 6 and could make his first start of the season April 8.

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Rookie Kyle Drabek will take Morrow's spot in the rotation and pitch in Toronto's second game of the season April 2 against the Minnesota Twins. He was scheduled to be the No. 4 starter behind opening-day starter Ricky Romero, Morrow, and Brett Cecil.

Jo-Jo Reyes will go fourth with Jesse Litsch scheduled to be the fifth starter.

Reyes is out of options and likely will stay on the 25-man roster when Morrow returns and be used in the bullpen. He would have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors.

Drabek was scheduled to start Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies, but instead will play Monday against the Boston Red Sox to set him up in his rotation spot. He had an extended bullpen session Thursday.

Backup catcher Jose Molina has been slated to work with Morrow and Drabek. Farrell said Molina will likely also catch Reyes, who came to Toronto from the Atlanta Braves with shortstop Yunel Escobar in a trade last July.

Molina has caught for Reyes during spring training.

"With Molina behind the plate, you have so much trust in him," Reyes said. "He's been there, he knows the (hitters).

"I'm going to trust him in what he calls. He makes it easy. I don't have to think out there. When he puts down that sign, I'm committed to that pitch."

Farrell said Hill didn't play Friday in keeping with his program of playing three games, then taking one off.

"He felt good (Thursday) and we're dealing with building the foundation, day game after a night game, all those types of things," Farrell said. "He feels the strength is gaining and confidence is growing in it and we'll see with continued intensity."

Right-hander Scott Richmond of North Vancouver, B.C., pitched one inning in Thursday's 5-3 loss to Atlanta after coming back from a sore shoulder. But he has been sent to the minor-league complex.

He will continue to work as a starter and will open the season in the starting rotation at triple-A Las Vegas. He has worked only twice in 'A' games this spring training.

"If we don't start him and put him in the bullpen it limits his potential versatility for us," Farrell said.

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