Rays postseason FAQ: What to expect from Tampa Bay in October

September 30th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- A season that began with a historic 13-game winning streak will continue into the playoffs. For the fifth straight year, and the ninth time since 2008, the Rays are bound for the postseason.

The Rays are set to begin their latest playoff run on Tuesday at Tropicana Field, hosting a best-of-three Wild Card Series as the American League’s top Wild Card team. They were in the division race until the final week, but fell short of their top regular-season goal as the Orioles claimed the AL East title on Thursday night with their 100th win.

But the Rays still have a chance to accomplish their top overall goal: winning the franchise’s first World Series.

Every year presents its challenges, and this season has been no exception for Tampa Bay. The Rays have lost staff aces and played more than a month without their star shortstop. They weathered their share of other injuries and absences, remade their bullpen on the fly during the season, navigated a brutal slump in July and withstood another spate of late-season injuries.

They have proven to be, in the eyes of baseball operations president Erik Neander, “the most resilient team that we've ever had.” And here they are, once again, ready for a deep run in October.

“It doesn't happen without everybody in the organization playing their role. We all have a small role in this, and ideally, it sums to something special and it's driven by our players. We're all behind them,” Neander said. “It is a special accomplishment. … Something to be proud of. And again, it gives us a chance to chase that ultimate goal of winning that last game of the year.”

What could the postseason roster look like?
C: Christian Bethancourt, René Pinto
1B: Yandy Díaz
2B: Isaac Paredes
SS: Taylor Walls
3B: Curtis Mead, Junior Caminero
INF: Jonathan Aranda
OF: Randy Arozarena, Josh Lowe, Manuel Margot, Jose Siri
DH: Harold Ramírez
SP: Tyler Glasnow, Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale, Zack Littell
RP: Pete Fairbanks, Robert Stephenson, Colin Poche, Shawn Armstrong, Kevin Kelly, Jake Diekman, Andrew Kittredge, Chris Devenski, Taj Bradley

What position-player postseason roster spots could be up for grabs?
The Rays now know they’ll be without Brandon Lowe (right patella fracture), but two questions remain related to key players’ health. Will center fielder Siri (right hand fracture) and first baseman/outfielder Luke Raley (cervical strain) be back in time for the start of the postseason?

Siri was set to begin baseball activities during the final weekend of the regular season, and the biggest test will be whether he can grip a bat with his injured hand. But even if he’s not at full strength in the batter’s box, he would still provide value as an elite defender with game-changing speed. Raley seems to be further behind Siri’s timeline, making it unlikely he’s ready for the Wild Card Series, but a return hasn't been ruled out yet.

If Raley is still sidelined, will the Rays opt for a left-handed hitter like Aranda, an outfielder like Raimel Tapia or a late-game pinch-running option like Billy Hamilton? Will they take a chance on top prospect Caminero, who got a bunch of at-bats during the season’s final week, or roll with a more versatile defender like Osleivis Basabe?

How about the pitching staff?
The Rays are set to pitch Glasnow in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, followed by Eflin in Game 2 and Civale in Game 3, if necessary. They experimented down the stretch with Littell and Bradley out of the bullpen, where they could be used in a short series, but they remain options to start in a longer postseason series.

The above staff comes with the assumption that Jason Adam (left oblique) won’t be available. Aside from one or two spots, the bullpen has been surprisingly stable since it was reshaped early in the season with the additions of Diekman, Stephenson and Armstrong.

Which players are unavailable?
Four of the Rays’ most talented starting pitchers finished the season on the 60-day injured list and won’t take part in the postseason.

Shane Baz is finishing his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen underwent season-ending elbow operations earlier this season, and two-time All-Star ace Shane McClanahan had his second Tommy John surgery on Aug. 21.

Additionally, lefty reliever Garrett Cleavinger (right knee) has been out since early May, prospect Greg Jones is on the 60-day IL, Brandon Lowe is out four to six weeks and Adam seems unlikely to return anytime soon.

All-Star shortstop Wander Franco was placed on indefinite administrative leave in late August while MLB and authorities in his native Dominican Republic investigate social media posts claiming that the 22-year-old had been in an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

Who could they face first? When?
If the season ended today, the fourth-seeded Rays would host the AL East-rival Blue Jays in a best-of-three Wild Card Series at Tropicana Field from Tuesday through Thursday. One of the Astros, Rangers and Mariners will win the AL West, but the other two are also vying for the final two Wild Card spots.

Playing the Blue Jays would present a unique challenge, as the Rays hosted Toronto for their final regular-season home series from Sept. 22-24 then finished the season with three games at Rogers Centre. The Rays and Jays split their first 10 matchups of the season.

When will they have home-field advantage?
The opponent with the best regular-season record (by win percentage) will have home-field advantage in every round through the World Series.

As the top AL Wild Card team, the Rays will have home-field advantage in the best-of-three Wild Card Series against the league’s No. 5 seed. They would not have home-field advantage in the ALDS, however, against the No. 1 seed Orioles.

Playing at home is no small matter for the Rays, as they went 53-28 and racked up 11 walk-off wins at Tropicana Field this season.

What is the Rays’ recent postseason history?
2022 -- Lost 2-0 to the Guardians in the AL Wild Card Series
2021 -- Lost 3-1 to the Red Sox in the ALDS
2020 -- Lost 4-2 to the Dodgers in the World Series
2019 -- Lost 3-2 to the Astros in the ALDS