Janssen will close for Blue Jays to start 2013

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- There's no doubt in Sergio Santos' mind that he'll be ready in time for Opening Day.

Toronto's right-hander has been hampered this spring by a sore right triceps muscle. The injury kept him out of action for more than a week, but he returned to game action on Wednesday and appears to be on the mend.

Santos threw 18 pitches in one Minor League inning and didn't report lingering soreness the following day.

"I don't foresee anything why I shouldn't be ready for Opening Day," Santos said. "If Opening Day was next week, I feel like I would be ready. So from my standpoint, the way I see it now, I feel like I am 100 percent ready moving on from here."

Santos threw fastballs and changeups in his Minor League outing. Sliders are expected to be added back into the mix during a scheduled outing vs. the Orioles on Saturday.

The goal is for Santos to throw back-to-back outings at some point late next week and possibly have a two-inning outing later this spring. The combination of those tasks should put him in an ideal situation to start the year.

One of the final hurdles is finding a way to master his changeup. It's a pitch Santos didn't throw very often with the White Sox, but it had become a top priority last year until a right shoulder injury brought his first season in Toronto to an abrupt end.

"When it's not going the way I want, it's probably not moving or biting down," Santos said of the changeup. "It's a little harder than most changeups, but I'm OK with it as long as my movement is there.

"What I'm hoping it's going to do is give me some groundballs, some double plays, something that I can help minimize pitches and throw it early in the count, and hopefully some of these guys put it in play and put it in play softly."

Timing still tight for Janssen despite step forward

Outlook: Janssen dominated as closer in 2012

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Casey Janssen is one step closer to making his first official appearance in a Spring Training game.

Janssen threw his first batting-practice session of the spring on Thursday morning. He threw approximately 20 pitches in a simulated game that involved pitching from both the stretch and wind-up.

Toronto's closer used a combination of fastballs, sliders and changeups during the brief workout at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

"I felt all right," Janssen said. "It was good to get out there, good to compete. Still by no means a finished product, but it's another step in the right direction and it was nice to face some hitters and pick up the intensity again."

Janssen had yet to face batters this spring following offseason surgery that involved shaving down the collarbone in his right shoulder. The procedure was described as relatively minor, but it included a rather extensive rehab that has put Janssen's start to the season somewhat in doubt.

The 31-year-old remains optimistic that he'll be ready for Opening Day, but he likely will need to pitch in at least one Minor League game and several Grapefruit League games in order for that to happen.

The timing will be tight for Toronto's first game on April 2 vs. the Indians. Janssen's hopeful, but there are mental and physical barriers he must overcome before that can occur.

"Physical, because you have to challenge the arm and see how it comes back," Janssen said. "See the recovery, see what kind of velocity it is, if it needs to get harder or whatever.

"Mentally, as every day goes on, if there's good progress then I feel more inclined to throw harder and challenge it even more. Where, if you still have that little bit of doubt in the back of your mind, you're still guarding just a touch."

Scoreless relief outing encouraging for Cecil

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Brett Cecil bounced back from his worst outing of the spring by tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on Thursday afternoon.

Cecil entered the game needing a strong performance to help build his case for one of the final two spots in Toronto's bullpen.

The 26-year-old managed to do that by going to an impressive curveball and changeup while resisting the urge to rely on his fastball as much as previous outings.

"The curveball was working really well," said Cecil, who lowered his spring ERA to 6.30. "I was just a little bit late getting my hand out on the fastball and the curveball brings me right back to the arm slot where it should be at.

"The changeup was working well, too. They want me to start throwing my changeup a little bit more now that I have some of my velocity back. Starting to change speeds a little bit more rather than just fastball, cutter."

Cecil, who is out of options on his contract, remains in a heated competition for a job on the 25-man roster. He's in the mix with Aaron Loup, Jeremy Jeffress and Brad Lincoln, and to a lesser extent, J.A. Happ and Neil Wagner.

The Blue Jays view Cecil as a candidate for the long reliever's role, but he's also the type of pitcher who could be used in situational matchups as well.

Cecil auditioned for both of those roles vs. New York by replacing right-hander Esmil Rogers in the fifth and continuing on to record his longest outing of the spring.

The native of Maryland surrendered just one hit and one walk while striking out three. It was a positive step for a reliever, who has had several bumps in the road this spring.

"It has been frustrating, to say the least," Cecil said. "My last couple of outings before this, giving up the runs. I felt great every time going out, and I think that was the most frustrating part. Feeling good, throwing good pitches, but not good enough.

"It has just been frustrating juggling that part of it. But I'm just trying to keep it out of my head that it's a competition and just trying to get better every time out."

Worth mentioning

The Blue Jays made another round of cuts on Thursday afternoon by sending seven players to Minor League camp. Infielder Ryan Goins and first baseman Lars Anderson were assigned to Triple-A Buffalo, while right-hander Chad Jenkins was assigned to Double-A New Hampshire. Chad Beck, Tyson Brummett, Sean Ochinko and Mickey Storey also were returned to Minor League camp, but they did not need to be assigned to a team as they are not currently on the 40-man roster.