PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Opening Day is drawing near and the composition of the Rays' 25-man roster still isn't clear.What follows is an educated opinion about which players will be getting introduced at Tropicana Field when the Rays open the season on April 2 against the Yankees.OutfieldersKevin Kiermaier and his
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Opening Day is drawing near and the composition of the Rays' 25-man roster still isn't clear.
What follows is an educated opinion about which players will be getting introduced at Tropicana Field when the Rays open the season on April 2 against the Yankees.
Kevin Kiermaier and his Gold Glove will again patrol center field. He'll be flanked by Steven Souza Jr. in right, and either Corey Dickerson or Mallex Smith in left. Dickerson will alternate between left and designated hitter.
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Colby Rasmus, whom the Rays signed in January, has not yet played in a game as he recovers from several offseason surgeries. Word is he's not that far behind. Still, that translates to Rasmus opening the season on the disabled list.
Tampa Bay has gone primarily with three catchers this spring with Luke Maile, Curt Casali and Jesus Sucre.
A lot of the pitchers have expressed how much they've enjoyed pitching to Sucre. Alas, this one's a really close call and the fact that the Rays would have to make a move to their 40-man roster to accommodate Sucre (who is not on the 40-man roster) will likely make the decision for Tampa Bay. Catching is a demanding position, so Sucre will likely see action at some point of the season, as will Wilson Ramos, the Rays' biggest offseason free-agent acquisition. Ramos isn't expected to be back from ACL surgery until late May or early June.
The locks are Evan Longoria at third, Brad Miller at second and Logan Morrison at first. Matt Duffy appears as though he'll start the season on the DL, which means Timothy Beckham will get most of the time at shortstop until Duffy returns. Nick Franklin could also play the position, as could Miller. Rickie Weeks looks like he'll be the right-handed option for first base. Morrison and Weeks will likely see time at DH as well. Look for Daniel Robertson to take Duffy's roster spot at the beginning of the season.
The first four are easy: Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell. Matt Andriese will be the fifth starter, but the question that needs to be answered is whether Tampa Bay will begin the season with four starters or five. Last season, the Rays began the season with four starters due to the many off-days, and they sent Andriese to Triple-A Durham so he could continue to be stretched out as a starter. The guess here is Tampa Bay will go with four in favor of having an extra reliever in the bullpen.
Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Xavier Cedeno, Erasmo Ramirez and recently claimed Jumbo Diaz are locks. Newcomer Shawn Tolleson should be in the mix, if he's healthy. Add to that either Jaime Schultz or Tommy Hunter. Let's go with Schultz for now, and both if Tolleson begins the season on the DL.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.