Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Rays facing 3 key questions this spring

MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Spring Training officially opens Sunday morning, when the Rays' pitchers and catchers hold their first workout.

The workout will kick off the team's 19th camp and eighth in Charlotte County.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Spring Training officially opens Sunday morning, when the Rays' pitchers and catchers hold their first workout.

The workout will kick off the team's 19th camp and eighth in Charlotte County.

Second-year manager Kevin Cash and his staff will welcome 40 pitchers and catchers to Charlotte Sports Park. The players will take the field at 9:30 a.m. ET. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Friday, when the camp expands to 64 players, including 23 non-roster invites and one player on the 60-day disabled list.

On Feb. 27 at 11 a.m., the 2016 Rays Fan Fest kicks off at Tropicana Field, and the Rays will play their Grapefruit League opener against the Nationals on March 2 at Charlotte Sports Park.

New faces to join the 40-man roster include first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce, catcher Hank Conger, outfielder Corey Dickerson, outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison, shortstop Brad Miller and right-handers Danny Farquhar and Ryan Webb.

Key losses to the team include shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera; DH John Jaso; outfielders Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore and Joey Butler; catcher J.P. Arencibia; right-handers Brandon Gomes and Nathan Karns; and left-handers Jake McGee and C.J. Riefenhauser.

Comeback candidates | Newcomers | Prospects | Battles | Projected lineup

Despite the turnover, expectations remain high for the players who will wear Rays uniforms in 2016. Here are three key questions the Rays face heading into the season.

1. Who will play first base?
James Loney will return to the Rays despite the many offseason rumors that he would be traded. Fueling that speculation were the acquisitions of Pearce and Morrison, who appeared to be headed for platoon duty at first. And don't forget slugging prospect Richie Shaffer. Having that group in camp presents a pleasant problem, but if they're all in Port Charlotte at the end of the spring, the team will have too many players for the position, even though Morrison and Pearce can also DH and play the outfield.

2. Can the Rays find a suitable setup man in their bullpen?
Brad Boxberger will again be the team's closer, but with McGee gone, there are questions about who will be the team's setup man, or setup men. Fortunately, the Rays have a host of candidates in right-handers Alex Colome, Steve Geltz, Farquhar and Webb. In addition, they have left-handers Xavier Cedeno and Enny Romero. Since Cash came aboard, the team has been less inclined to have defined roles in the bullpen, so expect plenty of candidates to be ready to serve as setup men by the end of spring.

Video: Cash, Silverman on stretching bullpen, new additions

3. Which outfielders will the Rays break camp with this season?
There are so many players with multiple gloves in their lockers this spring that it's hard to classify them in one position. One thing is certain in the Rays' outfield: Kevin Kiermaier will patrol center field, and newcomer Dickerson will either be in left or at DH. Other than that, the team has to choose from Desmond Jennings, Steven Souza Jr., Mikie Mahtook and Brandon Guyer. Also playing the outfield are Pearce and Morrison, along with intriguing utility man Taylor Motter. Again, another pleasant problem, but one that needs a resolution before Opening Day.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays