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Bullpen battle heating up for Blue Jays

With less than three weeks until opening day, the Blue Jays’ closer role is wide open.

With less than three weeks until opening day, the Blue Jays’ closer role is wide open.

But no matter how close the battle for the job may be, manager Cito Gaston insists the team will not have multiple closers entering the season. Left-hander Scott Downs and right-handers Jason Frasor and Kevin Gregg are competing head-to-head in an open audition.

“That’s one thing that (pitching coach) Bruce (Walton) and I talked about,” Gaston said. “We’d like to see these three guys in competition with some good hitters. We’re getting to the point where teams are getting down to their club. This week is really going to be a week where they’re moving players out and getting their players ready.”

The Jays’ trio of bullpen amigos have pitched in the same game for four games in a row, but always in a different order, the better to evaluate where they stand against one another. Recall that when Gregg was signed, he was promised a chance to win the closer’s role. What better way than this?

“I like the idea of competition; that’s what drew me over here,” Gregg said after his one shutout inning against the Orioles yesterday, in which his only blemish was a two-out walk. The Jays won 4-1.

“It’s an opportunity to be on the field in a role that you want to be in. I think we’re slowly working in the stuff, mechanically bouncing ideas off each other.”