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Answers to 10 of your Opening Day questions

Bullpen battle highlights Rays' decisions to be made in final week of camp
@juanctoribio
March 21, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay came into camp with a strong idea of what its Opening Day roster would look like, but there are still some decisions left to be made -- particularly with the bullpen. With just a week left until the 2019 regular season starts, let’s break

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tampa Bay came into camp with a strong idea of what its Opening Day roster would look like, but there are still some decisions left to be made -- particularly with the bullpen. With just a week left until the 2019 regular season starts, let’s break down everything you need to know about the roster and who is still fighting for a spot on the roster.

1) Who would play against left-handed pitching?
If Matt Duffy makes the Opening Day roster, the Rays will go into the season carrying 13 position players. Finding consistent at-bats for those players will be a challenge for manager Kevin Cash this season, but he’ll likely go with the best matchups depending on the splits from the opposing pitcher.

Against left-handed pitching, Tommy Pham, Yandy Díaz, Matt Duffy, Daniel Robertson, Mike Zunino, Willy Adames and Avisail Garcia will all be options in the lineup. Pham, Diaz, Robertson, Zunino and Adames are going to get plenty of playing time against both lefties and righties, but Garcia -- who is a career .304 hitter against left-handers -- will get most of his opportunities against southpaws.

2) Who would play against right-handed pitching?
Of the lefties, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Lowe are the two most likely to play against both righties and lefties. Aside from them, Austin Meadows Ji-Man Choi, Joey Wendle and Michael Perez will get most of the action against right-handed pitching.

3) Who’s an opener?
This will vary throughout the season, but Ryne Stanek, Diego Castillo, Hunter Wood and Emilio Pagan are all candidates to open games. Pagan and Wood are likely battling for the last remaining spot in the bullpen. Chaz Roe could also be looked at as a potential opener option depending on the matchups.

4) Who’s a bulk guy?
If the Rays decide to carry four bulk guys in the bullpen to start the season, the options would be Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos, Wilmer Font and Jalen Beeks. Both Yarbrough and Chirinos will get plenty of opportunities to go deep into games, while Font and Beeks could be used in two-inning roles and get stretched out whenever needed.

5) Who can close?
The Rays won’t name a closer this season, but Jose Alvarado appears to be the safest bet to get most of the work in the ninth inning. If Alvarado gets used earlier in the game, Stanek, Castillo and Roe are all options to close for Tampa Bay.

6) Who will be leading off?
Much like the closer situation, the Rays will likely go the entire season playing around with the leadoff spot. During the spring, Meadows, Diaz, Lowe, Robertson and Wendle have all gotten opportunities in that spot. Duffy could also be an option whenever he’s in the lineup.

7) Who’s in the rotation?
Tampa Bay will go into the season with Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow as its lone starters in the rotation. Yarbrough and Chirinos can help the Rays with spot starts whenever needed, but for the most part, it’ll be a three-man rotation.

8) Who’s still competing?
Unless Tampa Bay makes a roster move in the coming days, most of the spots on the Opening Day roster appear to be decided. There are, however, a couple of spots open in the bullpen, and that seems to be a competition between Wood, Pagan, Cole Sulser and Hoby Milner. The Rays are expected to have another round of cuts Friday, which will present a clearer picture of who’s in the mix for the last spot.

9) What happens if Duffy starts the year on the injured list?
Even though Duffy returned to Grapefruit League action Thursday, there’s still a chance the third baseman starts the season on the IL. The concern is getting Duffy enough at-bats in order for him to be ready to start the season on the active roster. If Duffy misses time to start the season, Tampa Bay would likely add another pitcher to the roster. If that happens, it’s possible that Wood and Pagan could both make the Opening Day roster and the Rays would go into the season carrying 13 pitchers.

10) Who plays where defensively?
Defensive versatility is something the Rays value, and the 2019 team seems to have a lot of it. Here’s a breakdown of players that could play multiple positions this season:

Wendle: second base, third base, shortstop, outfield
Robertson: second base, third base, shortstop
Duffy: third base, outfield
Diaz: first base, third base
Lowe: first base, second base, outfield

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.