I'm glad I'm not a Blue Jay fan.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Royce Clayton is penciled in as Toronto's starting shortstop. The Blue Jays were just a little hesistant to say as much when they signed him over the winter.
"There's a good chance he's the everyday shortstop," Toronto manager John Gibbons said Monday, his tone suggesting that the decision was made months ago.
Shortly after inking Clayton to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million in November, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said that the Jays might consider using a "two- or three-headed monster" at shortstop. Since then, though, Toronto has decided to hand the everyday job soley to Clayton, who has played in at least 133 games in nine of the past 10 seasons.
"We thought when we signed him he was going to have a chance to play a lot," Ricciardi said. "Gibby's comfortable with him being out there. He brings a lot more stability to our team and that's the way we're going to start."
The way things line up behind the 37-year-old Clayton on the depth chart remains a little hazy, though. Toronto has room to carry two infielders on its bench, but three players are currently in the mix for jobs.
One of the leading candidates would be veteran infielder John McDonald, who started 76 games at short last season for the Jays and is under contract for $750,000. Gibbons wanted to quash any notions that McDonald's status with the team was in jeopardy, though.
"Johnny Mac is a part of this," Gibbons said. "He's a good addition for us. He's helped us in the past, and we have a spot to carry two extra infielders."
Up for a job as an additional utility player is Jason Smith, who Toronto picked up from the Cubs in December's Rule 5 Draft. Smith can play all four infield positions and he would provide a left-handed bat off the bench. The Jays have to keep Smith on their 25-man roster this season. Otherwise, Toronto would have to return the 29-year-old infielder to Chicago.
"If we like him, we'd be crazy to give him back," Gibbons said.
The Blue Jays are also taking a good look this spring at infielder Ray Olmedo, who was claimed off waivers from the Reds in January. Olmedo is a switch-hitter and Toronto has been impressed with his defense.
"I think all of them are in competition with each other, said Ricciardi, referring to McDonald, Smith and Olmedo. "We've got to make our team the best team we can make it, and we'll see which ones give us the best advantage."