Rays set 2022 Opening Day roster

April 7th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays officially set their Opening Day roster on Thursday afternoon, finalizing the team that will line up at Tropicana Field to face the Orioles on Friday afternoon.

Tampa Bay is rarely, if ever, swayed by Spring Training results when making roster-related decisions, so the last month brought only a couple impactful additions (Jason Adam, Harold Ramirez), one notable subtraction (Austin Meadows) and a few key injuries (Pete Fairbanks, Shane Baz) that affected the composition of the Rays’ season-opening 28-man squad.

“It's an unusual spring. I think a lot of moves that would normally be done in the winter, league-wide, are being done now,” general manager Peter Bendix said Wednesday. “To be honest, that's a little uncomfortable. That's not ideal. But it's the state of baseball these days, and I think we're really happy with how (the roster) came together.”

The Rays’ toughest decisions came in the bullpen, where they have more candidates than available jobs even with rosters being expanded by two spots (three for doubleheaders) from Opening Day through May 1. Additionally, there will be no limit on how many pitchers clubs can carry until May 2. However, rosters will revert to 26 players with a 13-pitcher maximum after May 1. 

The Rays elected to carry 13 position players and 15 pitchers to begin the season. Here’s a closer look at the franchise’s 25th Opening Day roster.

Catcher (2): ,
Zunino worked through a brief bout of shoulder soreness, ensuring the All-Star will get most of the work while Mejía serves as a very capable partner behind the plate. They will likely split time in the early going, however, to avoid overworking Zunino after an abbreviated spring camp.

First base (1):
is likely to platoon here again as he works at first and third base. Harold Ramirez could get some work at first, too, as another right-handed-hitting option to pair with the lefty-hitting Choi. But expect to see a lot of Choi, who’s coming off a solid season at the plate (116 OPS+) despite being limited to 83 games by injuries.

Second base (1):
Lowe hit 39 homers with 99 RBIs in 149 games last season, and he has his sights set on 40/100 this year.  should back him up, but this position belongs to one of the game’s most underrated stars.

Shortstop (1):
Franco will bat second and play shortstop every day he can. Go ahead and lock in this one for a long time.

Third base (2): , 
Díaz came into camp in great shape after finishing second on the team with a .353 OBP last season, so he’s ready for plenty of time at third base. You could also see a lot of the slick-fielding, switch-hitting Walls -- the Rays’ next Joey Wendle -- at the hot corner. There’s a scenario where they could squeeze Walls (at third), Díaz (at first) and Ramírez (as the DH) into the lineup against lefties.

Outfield (6): , , , , Harold Ramirez, Josh Lowe
After weeks of rumors, the Rays finally traded Austin Meadows and acquired Isaac Paredes from the Tigers on Monday night. That cleared the way for Lowe, MLB's No. 50 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to earn a spot in the outfield/DH mix. Expect to see a pretty consistent rotation here, as Margot, Lowe and Phillips can play all three spots. The mix of lefties (Kiermaier, Phillips, Lowe) and righties (Arozarena, Margot, Ramírez) also gives manager Kevin Cash a ton of in-game flexibility.

Ramírez is more of a right-handed-hitting DH option who has learned to play first base, but he has experience in the corner spots. Arozarena and Lowe figure to rotate through the DH spot between starts in the outfield as well, freeing up innings for the trio of elite defensive center fielders: Kiermaier, Margot and Phillips.

With Lowe in the big leagues, lefty-hitting outfielder/first baseman and versatile prospect are likely the Rays' next callup options if an outfielder becomes unavailable.

Rotation (5): , , , , 
The Rays confirmed the order of their rotation to start the season. After McClanahan starts Opening Day, Rasmussen and Kluber will finish out Tampa Bay's opening series against the Orioles. Patiño will begin the Rays' second series against the A’s, then Yarbrough will take the mound. McClanahan, Kluber and Yarbrough seem to be the most stretched-out arms in the rotation coming out of Spring Training, making bulk-inning lefty Josh Fleming an important arm who could work behind Rasmussen and/or Patiño.

Bullpen (10): , , , , , , , Jason Adam, , 
This was the toughest call, and it came down to the wire for Mazza as the Rays surveyed the market for other potential options that might have become available.

The early locks were Kittredge, Raley, Wisler, Chargois, Feyereisen, Springs and Beeks. Fleming and Mazza almost seemed like necessary additions given the need for bulk/multi-inning arms during the first month of the season. The Rays were “very encouraged” by what they saw from Adam -- signed to a split contract during Spring Training -- in his first weeks with the team, Cash said. 

Cash said the Rays “couldn’t be happier” with what they saw from Colin Poche and Ryan Thompson, who are coming back from major surgeries and wound up being the last two relievers sent to Triple-A Durham. But they simply prioritized pitchers who can work multiple innings to start the season.

Injured list (6): , , Nick Anderson, , , Brendan McKay
If Glasnow can return this season, as he hopes to do, it won’t be until late in the year. Anderson should be available at some point in the second half. Fairbanks won’t even pick up a baseball for the next six weeks, making late June/early July his earliest return time frame. Chirinos was placed on the 60-day IL on March 18, and Baz had to begin the season on the Major League injured list because he finished last season on the big league roster.