Espinal, Moreno, Kikuchi on Jays’ wild-card roster; Zimmer, Gurriel Jr., are not

The Toronto Blue Jays named infielder Santiago Espinal to the roster Friday for their wild-card series against the Seattle Mariners but did not include injured outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., on the 26-man list.

Espinal (oblique) and Gurriel (hamstring) both worked out and ran the bases Thursday at Rogers Centre but their status wasn’t finalized until Friday morning, a few hours ahead of Game 1.

Backup catcher Gabriel Moreno also made the list along with left-handed reliever Yusei Kikuchi. Backup outfielder Bradley Zimmer was left off the roster.

The decision to include Moreno gives Toronto three catchers and the flexibility to shift backstops Alejandro Kirk or Danny Jansen into a designated hitter role if needed.

Kikuchi, meanwhile, struggled as a starter this season but has improved of late in a bullpen role. He offers a power arm from the left side who can be used in long relief if needed.

Zimmer has been used in a limited role this season, primarily as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement late in games.

Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah will get the start in Game 1 against Luis Castillo. A sellout crowd of over 45,000 is expected for Toronto’s first playoff game at Rogers Centre since 2016.

The Mariners plan to give Robbie Ray the start in Game 2 and will go with Logan Gilbert if Game 3 is necessary. Toronto has yet to announce its pitching plans for the weekend but Kevin Gausman and Ross Stripling are good bets to be named starters.

WATCH l Excitement builds for Blue Jays playoff run:

Excitement builds for Blue Jays playoff run

The excitement is building for the Toronto Blue Jays post-season run that starts Friday when they host the Seattle Mariners. After the pandemic forced the team to play in empty stadiums out of the country, this post-season means even more to the team and its fans.

As the top wild-card seed, Toronto will have home-field advantage for all games in the best-of-three series.

Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. If Game 3 is necessary, it will be played Sunday afternoon.

The series winner will advance to the American League Division Series starting Tuesday in Houston.

The Blue Jays did not make the playoffs last year and were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a wild-card series in 2020. Toronto last reached the AL Championship Series in 2016 and last won the World Series in 1993.

Seattle, a franchise that entered Major League Baseball with the expansion Blue Jays in 1977, hasn’t played a playoff game since losing the ALCS in 2001.

WATCH l Relive the Toronto Blue Jays ’92 World Series victory parade:

Relive the Toronto Blue Jays ’92 World Series victory parade

Watch footage of CBC’s coverage from the Toronto Blue Jays’ 1992 World Series victory parade.

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