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Osuna, Sanchez, Hendriks could start for Blue Jays in 2016, says interim GM

Nick Turchiaro / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters

With David Price, Mark Buehrle, and Marco Estrada all eligible to sign elsewhere as free agents this winter, the Toronto Blue Jays may look to their bullpen as they attempt to fill out the starting rotation for next season, interim general manager Tony LaCava said Tuesday.

LaCava, who was named interim GM after Alex Anthopoulos turned down a five-year contract extension in late October, said right-handers Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, and Liam Hendriks are all candidates to start next season.

In 2015, his inaugural season with the Blue Jays, Osuna quickly emerged as the club's best reliever, logging 20 saves after grabbing hold of the closer's role in June while fashioning a 2.58 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP over 68 appearances. Osuna, who spent virtually all of his minor-league career as a starter, also fashioned a 27.7 percent strikeout rate while limiting opponents to a .191 batting average in 2015. The 20-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013, however, and hasn't logged more than 69 2/3 innings in a single season since signing with the Blue Jays five years ago.

"(Osuna) is a different guy, he's pretty unique," said LaCava. "I wouldn't put any limits on him, personally."

Sanchez, meanwhile, opened the season in the rotation after logging 24 relief appearances with Toronto in 2014, but was reassigned to the bullpen in July after fashioning a 3.55 ERA with a 13.2 percent walk rate in 11 starts. Upon returning to a relief role, though, the 23-year-old authored a 2.39 ERA with 0.87 WHIP in 30 appearances while managing a gaudy 67.6 percent ground-ball rate.

A move to the bullpen paid dividends for Hendriks, too, as the Australia native became a full-time reliever in 2015 en route to the best campaign of his career. Despite posting a 5.95 ERA over 34 starts heading into this season, the 26-year-old crafted a 2.92 ERA with a 6.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio, albeit while pitching primarily in low-leverage situations.

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