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Revisiting Rays' projected Opening Day roster

Tampa Bay's four-man rotation gives club more flexibility
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are finishing up their Grapefruit League schedule, which allows for a better idea about what the team's 25-man roster will look like on Opening Day.

Prior to Spring Training, the prediction for who would be on that roster looked considerably different than it does today, thanks to trades that sent Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson packing.

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are finishing up their Grapefruit League schedule, which allows for a better idea about what the team's 25-man roster will look like on Opening Day.

Prior to Spring Training, the prediction for who would be on that roster looked considerably different than it does today, thanks to trades that sent Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson packing.

Of note, the Rays like to look outside the box to identify new ways to gain any advantage, and they've already announced one such move this spring. They plan to use a four-man rotation that will be supplemented by a bullpen day when a fifth starter is needed.

Based on that, the Rays will start the season with eight relievers.

Combined with the four starters, that has Tampa Bay beginning the season with 12 pitchers, leaving 13 position players.

Catchers (2): Wilson Ramos, Jesus Sucre

The Rays finally have a solid tandem behind the dish. Pitchers like throwing to both, and both contribute offensively as well.

First base (2): C.J. Cron, Brad Miller

Miller was forecast as the starter in the first roster prediction, then the Rays acquired Cron in a trade with the Angels; Cron will get most of the starts. Miller, who had been projected to play first base in 2017 prior to re-signing of Logan Morrison, will still see time at first base.

Second base (2): Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle

Robertson showed an above-average glove in 2017, and he can play all of the infield positions. Wendle has acquitted himself well in the field and at the plate during the spring. Micah Johnson had been forecast as one of the second basemen, and still could be with the team at some point, but having him start the season at Triple-A Durham would add to the organization's depth.

Shortstop (1): Adeiny Hechavarria

Hechavarria is an above-average fielder. Should he be traded, look for Willy Adames to fill the position. Adames is ready, though his bat is ahead of his glove, so the Rays will have him begin the season at Durham, which would also delay the start of his Major League clock (in relation to service time).

Third base (1): Matt Duffy

Duffy looks like he's finally healthy. With longtime mainstay Evan Longoria gone, Duffy will move back to third base, the position he played with the Giants before being traded to the Rays in 2016.

Outfield (5): Kevin Kiermaier, Carlos Gomez, Mallex Smith, Denard Span, Brandon Snyder/Johnny Field

After the trade of Souza to the D-backs, the Rays signed Gomez, giving them a right-handed bat in right field. Kiermaier will start in center, and Span should start in left, though his inclusion is contingent on the Rays not trading him, as his $11 million salary makes him a distinct trade possibility. Smith and either Snyder or Field will serve as the backups, and should play a lot.

DH: By committee

Cron, Miller, Span, Smith, Duffy and Gomez could all see time at DH, though Miller appears to be the likely candidate to fill the slot on most nights.

Starters (4): Chris Archer, Nathan Eovaldi, Blake Snell, Jake Faria

These four are a lock barring an injury. Should someone get hurt, there's a handful of likely candidates who could step in, headed by Matt Andriese.

Relievers (8): Jose Alvarado, Alex Colome, Sergio Romo, Andrew Kittredge, Yonny Chirinos, Andriese, Ryan Yarbrough, Chaz Roe

Eovaldi had been projected to be in the bullpen, as were Jaime Schultz and Ryne Stanek, but Schultz has been slowed this spring while recovering from injuries, and the Rays re-signed Romo. The "bullpen day" has changed the complexion of the forecast. In addition, this projection is based on the premise that Colome will still be the closer. If he's traded, there would likely be a bullpen by committee until somebody won the role.

Projected lineup:
1. Matt Duffy, 3B
2. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
3. Carlos Gomez, RF
4. C.J. Cron, 1B
5. Wilson Ramos, C
6. Brad Miller, DH
7. Daniel Robertson, 2B
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
9. Denard Span, LF

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays