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Inbox: How is Rays' roster shaping up?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers questions about Tsutsugo, Franco and rotation
@juanctoribio
July 13, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- Summer Camp has reached its halfway point and things are starting to shape up for Tampa Bay, which makes this a good time for a Rays Inbox. Tampa Bay has yet to play an intrasquad game, but the club has gone through a handful of simulated games,

ST. PETERSBURG -- Summer Camp has reached its halfway point and things are starting to shape up for Tampa Bay, which makes this a good time for a Rays Inbox.

Tampa Bay has yet to play an intrasquad game, but the club has gone through a handful of simulated games, which has allowed pitchers to face live hitters, while hitters have also benefited from seeing multiple pitchers.

Anyway, let’s see what’s on your mind.

A lot of where Yoshitomo Tsutsugo plays this season will be determined by comfort. The Rays have made it clear that they want Tsutsugo to be as comfortable as possible, which they believe will help him excel at the plate, the place where most of his value comes from. With that being said, however, Tsutsugo will have to be ready to play either third base or left field due to the possibility of a player getting hurt or testing positive for COVID-19.

During the spring, Tsutsugo split his time between left and third, but he looked much more comfortable in left field. Tsutsugo said getting used to the speed of the game at third was a little bit more challenging, and with the stoppage and only a limited amount of intrasquad games, the adjustment period during Summer Camp could be limited. But if Tsutsugo hits the way the Rays believe he will, he’ll be in the lineup every day, which would mean some more starts at designated hitter.

Regardless of where Tsutsugo plays on the field, expect to see him in the lineup against right-handed pitching -- and don’t be surprised to see him in the lineup a decent amount against southpaws. Comfort and overall production will determine just how much he plays.

Wander Franco probably won't make his debut until 2021.

Franco, the club's top prospect, was added to the 60-man player pool, giving him the chance to potentially make his Major League debut this season, but realistically, the Rays likely won’t call him up in 2020 unless it’s absolutely necessary. Willy Adames is going to be Tampa Bay's everyday shortstop and Brandon Lowe will likely handle most of the second-base duties. Because of that, the Rays can continue to develop Franco and give him some valuable at-bats against big league pitching during camp. If they think he’s ready late in the season, then he’ll be in the conversation, but Tampa Bay would have to be 100 percent sure that he’ll contribute right away.

Coming into Summer Camp, Brendan McKay was one of the pitchers the Rays were counting on to give them bulk innings. McKay got his first taste of the big leagues last season, posting a 5.14 ERA in 13 appearances.

However, McKay hasn’t been seen in camp over the last week for undisclosed reasons, putting his availability for Opening Day in jeopardy. Once McKay is available, he should be part of a Tampa Bay rotation that will rely on its depth in order to get through the unprecedented season.

Good question. This is something the Rays will have to figure out as Opening Day gets closer. In a normal world, the Rays would’ve started the season with Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos and Tyler Glasnow in the rotation, with McKay possibly getting the nod as the sixth starter. But with Glasnow, McKay and Chirinos away from camp, the club will have to make some interesting decisions.

Health permitting, Tampa Bay will enter the season with Snell, Morton and Yarbrough in the rotation, but the other two or three spots are still open. Trevor Richards, Jalen Beeks and Anthony Banda are the likely options to provide bulk innings, but I don’t see any of them being inserted into the rotation without having proven more during their first couple of starts.

As of now, I would say the Rays will start the season with a five-man rotation, but that could change quickly if Glasnow, Chirinos and McKay return and are able to get ready before Opening Day.

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