OAKLAND -- The Rays are built on creating the best possible matchup, which led to plenty of discussion about who would be on the 25-man roster for Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game against the A’s.
Those conversations continued for over 48 hours, but they were finalized on Wednesday. The Rays decided to carry 10 pitchers, including Charlie Morton, who will get the ball Wednesday night, and starters Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough and Blake Snell.
Tampa Bay also opted to go with nine infielders, seven of whom are right-handed hitters. Yandy Díaz, who returned to the Rays on Sunday, made the roster, but Eric Sogard -- who hasn’t played since Sept. 15 with a right foot injury -- did not make the 25-man cut.
Let’s take a look at the full roster, and how each player might be used on Wednesday:
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Pitchers (10): Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Emilio Pagán, Colin Poche, Chaz Roe, Blake Snell, Ryan Yarbrough
Morton is getting the start, but if there are any signs of trouble, the Rays would likely go with Glasnow to keep the game within reach. Yarbrough could also provide length. As for Snell, who pitched on Sunday, his arm could come into play against a left-handed hitter in a crucial situation. Tampa Bay won’t ask for length out of Snell, though, and he’ll be treated more as a reliever.
“Just talking to Snell, his outing against the Dodgers couldn’t have been more impressive,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, “His outing against the Red Sox and Blue Jays, not the same. But we’re betting on Blake Snell being Blake. And if he needs to dial it up, he’s going to be able to dial it up.”
Pagán and Anderson will be the eighth- and ninth-inning options with a lead, while Castillo and Roe would be asked to get big outs in the middle innings. Drake and Poche will be tasked with getting a big out against a left-hander, especially Matt Olson.
Catchers (2): Travis d'Arnaud, Mike Zunino
No surprises here. d’Arnaud and Zunino have been the two main catchers for the Rays this season, and that’ll continue during the postseason.
Infielders (9): Willy Adames, Jesús Aguilar, Michael Brosseau, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Díaz, Matt Duffy, Brandon Lowe, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle
This is the most interesting group. Adames, Duffy, Lowe, Choi and Wendle were the obvious options, but the Rays carrying nine infielders is a bit of a surprise. Díaz proved to be healthy enough on Sunday, and Tampa Bay feels confident enough to trot him out in the AL Wild Card Game, especially against Oakland's left-handed starter Sean Manaea.
“I think it’s fair to say that him turning around his health caught us by surprise,” Cash said. “He had some good days and then some average days, but it seemed like him and Sogard really turned the corner. Yandy is obviously a tick ahead of Sogard, but he looked fine taking ground balls at third. He looked fine taking ground balls at first yesterday, and his bat plays a big factor.”
Aguilar gives the Rays another option at first base and a dangerous right-handed bat off the bench. As for Brosseau, he’ll get the start in second base for Tampa Bay. Manaea and Brosseau were teammates in high school, so there’s some familiarity there. The decision to start Brosseau over Lowe or Wendle was just to get another right-hander in the lineup.
“Challenging decision,” Cash said. “Brosseau has done some good things against left-handed pitching this year. Manaea is really tough and you look at the left-handed options we have. I think we can probably find a spot in the game to bank an at-bat. But that was a very challenging decision.”
With the Rays expecting a heavy dose of left-handed pitching on Wednesday, Sogard, Nate Lowe and Brendan McKay were left off the roster. Sogard, however, could return if they advance to the AL Division Series against the Astros.
“I think if we had another two days, there’s a chance he’s on the roster,” Cash said. “We just kind of ran out of time a little bit. But the process over the last 72 hours, he really felt much better Sunday, two off-days, but he hasn’t had the at-bats, he hasn’t had the reps at all. So it was good to see him take ground balls yesterday, take batting practice. He’s getting closer. Hopefully we have that opportunity.”
Outfielders (4): Avisaíl García, Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham
No surprises here, either, with the four outfielders that the Rays will carry on Wednesday. Expect all four to be in the lineup, with Meadows likely handling the designated-hitter duties. Guillermo Heredia was an option as a defensive replacement and another right-handed bat, but Tampa Bay decided to go with another infielder instead.
“Tough call,” Cash said, on not having Heredia on the roster. “Knowing that there’s a chance that we get aggressive with our infielders, I think the extra infielder provides a little bit of coverage.”
Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.