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Blue Jays create 40-man flexibility by clearing five pitchers off roster

The Toronto Blue Jays cleared five pitchers off of their 40-man roster Friday as off-season action picked up across Major League Baseball.

The Blue Jays lost left-hander Jose Fernandez to the Detroit Tigers on a waiver claim, while right-handers Rhiner Cruz, Taylor Guerrieri and Jake Petricka are free agents after clearing waivers, and righty Justin Shafer was outrighted to triple-A Buffalo. The team also reinstated Troy Tulowitzki and Brandon Drury to the roster from the 60-day disabled list to the 40-man roster, which now stands at 36.

One reason for the moves: the Blue Jays are facing a 40-man roster crunch this month ahead of the Nov. 20 deadline for adding Rule 5-eligible players. Among the eligible prospects worthy of consideration for roster spots: right-handers Hector Perez, Jon Harris, Patrick Murphy, Jordan Romano and Jacob Waguespack, catcher Max Pentecost and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Should the front office need to create more space in the weeks to come, position players including Dalton Pompey and Yangervis Solarte could also be viewed as candidates to come off of the roster. In the meantime, the Blue Jays cleared substantial space by removing those five pitchers.

Petricka would have been arbitration-eligible if the Blue Jays had kept him, and his projected salary of $1.7 million was seemingly more than the team was comfortable offering. The 30-year-old recovered from an elbow injury to appear in 41 games this past season, posting a 4.53 ERA with 41 strikeouts against 16 walks in 45.2 innings.

Fernandez made his MLB debut in September after a strong season in the minors, during which he posted a 2.97 ERA with 65 strikeouts compared to 31 walks over 60.2 innings split between double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo. Though the 25-year-old posted a 6.10 ERA with two home runs allowed in 13 appearances at the big-league level, his fastball averages 94.2 m.p.h. and he generated swinging strikes on nearly 10 per cent of his pitches.

Cruz made two relief appearances in July before hitting the disabled list with a right groin strain, while Shafer (3.24 ERA, 8.1 innings, 2 K, 7 BB) and Guerreri (4.66 ERA, 9.2 innings, 8 K, 4 BB) saw limited action as late-season bullpen reinforcements.

Free agents are eligible to sign with any team as of 5 p.m. ET on Friday.

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