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Rauch hopes to play big role in Jays’ bullpen

At 6 foot 11 and 290 pounds, Jon Rauch can naturally fill a room.

The veteran Major League pitcher is also looking forward to filling a roster spot in the bullpen for the Toronto Blue Jays this season.

A monster physically, Rauch is the tallest player to have ever played at the Major League level.

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Back in August, 2004, when he was a member with the Montreal Expos, Rauch smacked a home run off Roger Clemens, who was then pitching for the Houston Astros.

That made Rauch the tallest man in baseball to ever hit a home run.

Surprisingly, Rauch said he never played much basketball growing up in Westport, Ky.

"Always baseball," he said on Monday before the team's pitchers and catchers took the field for the team's first official workout of spring training. "The high school [basketball] coach where I played at wasn't exactly - what's the nicest way to put it - I don't think he liked the fact that I played baseball as well and it interfered with some of the basketball stuff."

Rauch played last season with the Minnesota Twins where he recorded 21 saves with a 3.12 earned-run-average.

He signed with the Blue Jays during the off-season as a free agent.

With the departure of Kevin Gregg, Rauch is in the mix to become the new closer for the Blue Jays this season along with other newcomers Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco. Returnee Jason Frasor will also get a close look.

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"Just go get 'em," Rauch said when asked what advice the team has given him coming into spring training. "I really don't care where I throw out of the bullpen. I just enjoy pitching and I'll go out there whenever they tell me to."

Francisco, 31, joined the Blue Jays several weeks back when the team in a trade with the Texas Rangers in exchange for catcher Mike Napoli.

Francisco had 25 saves for the Rangers two years ago but was supplanted as the team's closer early on into the 2010 season by A.L. rookie of the year Neftali Feliz.

Although the Rangers were A.L. champions before losing to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, Francisco said he was happy to be moving on.

"I thank God I got out of there," said Francisco, who was unhappy that his role out of the bullpen last season was not clearly defined.

Francisco said he doesn't really care how the Blue Jays utilize him out of the bullpen, but it's clear his mindset is on becoming the everyday closer.

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"I want to see change and see myself established in the big league like a closer - not really a setup man but like a real closer," he said. "That's my dream."

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