It's time for our weekly look at what the roster could look like for the Tampa Bay Rays when they take the field April 2 in St. Petersburg for their Opening Day matchup against the New York Yankees.
ARMS: The starting rotation has not changed in any of the previous versions of this projection, and with the improved performance of Matt Andriese in his latest spring outing, I think he's pretty much sealed up the fifth starter job barring anything unforeseen.
Starting pitchers: Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell.
The bullpen has seen quite a bit of flux throughout the spring, from the acquisition of supersized reliever Jumbo Diaz, to the injury concerns of guys like Shawn Tolleson and Brad Boxberger. Tolleson's return from back spasms is a good sign that he could be ready for the beginning of the year, but Boxberger's latest setback could mean flame-throwing Jaime Schultz could find himself in St. Petersburg for the start of the year. Since the team has yet to even see Diaz in camp this year, it's difficult to put him on the active roster. I believe the battle for the final bullpen spot is likely going to come down to the last couple of days of camp or later, and is between Diaz and fellow right-handers Danny Farquhar (who, like Diaz, is out of options) and Ryan Garton (who does have options). Tommy Hunter still needs to be added to the 40-man roster, but that can be accomplished by placing Kevin Gadea, who was set to be offered back to the Seattle Mariners before coming down with elbow tendinitis, on the 60-day disabled list.
Relief pitchers: Xavier Cedeno, Alex Colome, Jumbo Diaz, Tommy Hunter, Erasmo Ramirez, Jaime Schultz, Shawn Tolleson.
BATS: Starting on the infield, three spots seem to be fully established, with Evan Longoria getting his ninth straight Opening Day start at third base, Brad Miller getting the nod at second, and a platoon of Logan Morrison and Rickie Weeks Jr. at first. Shortstop still remains a question, as Matt Duffy's heel will keep him from taking the field April 2. Tim Beckham has taken a majority of the time with the first team at short this spring, though Daniel Robertson's performance has shown he's ready for the show. After thinking it could be possible for the team to start Robertson's service time clock Opening Day, it appears the front office and coaching staff will give Beckham, the former top-overall pick in 2008, first crack. Nick Franklin, who finished the season like gangbusters and has continued his hot hitting in the spring, poised to be in the super-utility role.
Infielders: Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin, Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Rickie Weeks Jr.
The outfield seems to be rounding in to shape also, with Colby Rasmus finally getting to play in Grapefruit League action. Until he gets time playing in the outfield, it's possible that he could start the season in the role of designated hitter, with Corey Dickerson, down 25 pounds from last year, starting the year playing left full-time until Rasmus is ready. Mallex Smith's speed make him the perfect player to be a late-inning pinch-runner and defensive replacement.
Outfielders: Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Colby Rasmus, Mallex Smith, Steven Souza Jr.
The situation at catcher is interesting. Luke Maile and Curt Casali are both on the 40-man roster, but the pitching staff and coaches have been extremely complimentary of Jesus Sucre, who was brought over from the Mariners just before the start of camp. Maile has had the better spring of the two catcher already on the 40-man roster, and both can be optioned to Triple-A, so Casali likely will find himself in Durham.
Catchers: Luke Maile, Jesus Sucre
INJURED: By my tally, the Rays should start the season with five players total on the disabled list. Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi will not play this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Rule 5 reliever Kevin Gadea is dealing with elbow tendinitis, and should be offered back to the Mariners when healthy, and catcher Wilson Ramos is likely not ready to return until early June from ACL surgery. All three should start on the 60-day disabled list. Meanwhile, reliever Brad Boxberger (lat) and shortstop Matt Duffy (heel) could be ready sooner.
10-day Disabled List: RHP Brad Boxberger (lat), SS Matt Duffy (heel)
60-day Disabled List: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (elbow), RHP Kevin Gadea (elbow), C Wilson Ramos (knee)