Prospect Shenton on roster status: 'I have no idea'

March 23rd, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- has been getting a lot of questions over the past few days. He has a lot of questions, too. He just doesn’t have any answers yet.

Shenton, who was optioned to Minor League camp on March 11, returned to the Rays’ Major League clubhouse at Charlotte Sports Park on Friday morning. He was back in their lineup, starting at first base, in a 6-4, split-squad loss to the Orioles on Saturday afternoon.

Shenton, Tampa Bay’s No. 8 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has been told he’ll stick with the Rays until the end of Spring Training. He hasn’t officially been recalled from Triple-A, but as a left-handed-hitting corner infielder who already has a spot on the 40-man roster, he’s their top internal option to replace the injured Jonathan Aranda (fractured right ring finger).

But will he line up along the foul line with the rest of the Rays’ Opening Day roster on Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field? Or will Tampa Bay’s front office acquire a more experienced left-handed bat before then, bumping Shenton back to Triple-A Durham?

He doesn’t know, either.

“A lot of people have asked,” Shenton said before going 0-for-4 against the Orioles. “I just have to basically be like, ‘Hey, I have no idea.’”

With a few decisions remaining, the Rays have until noon on Thursday to set their Opening Day roster. They need to acquire a backup catcher or commit to carrying non-roster invitee Alex Jackson in that role. They also must finalize a couple of spots on the pitching staff and one on the bench, assuming everyone else gets through the next few days without incident.

That uncertainty puts Shenton in an awkward position, especially as he fields queries from interested family and friends back home in Bellingham, Wash. For one, he understands as well as anybody that Aranda had earned his spot, only to have it ripped away for the next four to six weeks. He also knows nothing is guaranteed until the roster is finalized.

“I don’t know. It’s hard,” he said. “We all dream of that moment, right? When it becomes closer, it’s hard not to.”

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Shenton to move past a miserable final day in big league camp. He woke up the morning of March 11 with what he called “a little sinus infection thing,” felt out of sorts all day, then committed three errors at third base before being sent down.

“It was not the best,” said Shenton, who is slated to start at first base again Sunday. “I was in a blender. … To ice it off, I’m sent back to Minor League camp -- which I kind of expected, but we all want to play in the big leagues.”

Uwasawa’s uncertainty
Right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa, who was told Friday that he would not make the Rays’ Opening Day roster, was still considering his next step on Saturday morning.

Uwasawa is in camp on a Minor League deal, but could pursue a big league opportunity elsewhere through a clause in his contract. He said he intends to make a decision by Sunday.

“My goal was to make the team, the opening roster. I couldn’t make it, but it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do right now,” Uwasawa said through interpreter Taishi Terashima. “If I decide to stay here, I’m just going to keep getting better. That’s not going to change.”

Reliever Burch Smith and catcher Rob Brantly were also unsure Saturday if they would exercise their assignment clauses, but both said they would be happy to remain in the organization.

Around the horn
• Opening Day starter Zach Eflin gave up three runs (on a pair of homers) while striking out eight and walking one over six innings against the Orioles. He benefited from a spectacular diving catch by left fielder Richie Palacios that left the bases loaded in the second. Randy Arozarena mashed an opposite-field homer in the eighth, his fourth homer of the spring.

• Aaron Civale held a loaded Braves lineup to one run on three hits and a walk and struck out six over six innings at CoolToday Park. Jackson, Curtis Mead and Francisco Mejía backed up the right-hander with two hits each.

• Manager Kevin Cash was away from the team Saturday to attend to a personal matter. Bench coach Rodney Linares managed the split-squad team that beat the Braves, 5-2, in North Port, Fla. Brady Williams led the club at home, a rare game spent entirely in the dugout for the third-base coach, a role he also served while managing in the Minors.

• The Rays broke camp at Charlotte Sports Park on Saturday afternoon, as the big league team will work out of Tropicana Field starting Sunday. Right-hander Zack Littell will start Sunday afternoon against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. The Rays Radio broadcast will air on WDAE 95.3 FM / 620 AM.