Rays roster decisions forthcoming
Discussions over utility spot, 'pen, Longoria near conclusion
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Long after Saturday afternoon's game with the Pirates was banged due to rain, Rays officials and coaches met in the owner's box at Al Lang Field to talk about the team that will begin the 2008 season.
"We had some good discussions, we're narrowing it down," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The rotation is set. Still looking at the bullpen a little bit yet. And the team on the field is still a bit up in the air. But we advanced things pretty good yesterday as far as putting all of our thoughts together."
Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations, said the Rays will conduct further discussions Sunday night.
"In a big picture sense, health plays a role in what we're going to do in shaping our roster and also having guys in a position to be ready for Opening Day," Friedman said. "We've got a lot of things to balance that we need to go through and figure out, so we'll continue those discussions tonight.
"It will be a busy week. This time of year, conversations with other teams get a little more pointed. You get a little better sense of what's available, and in the meantime, try and juggle the internal decisions. [We've] put ourselves in a position to set our roster on the 30th, while maintaining as much depth as we can, but it's a fluid situation. The timing aspect of it is critical to navigate as well as we can."
Maddon said decisions on the bullpen will probably go right up until the end of Spring Training. In particular, the Rays are trying to decide between Grant Balfour and Scott Dohmann for the last spot. Both of the right-handers are out of options, which means they would have to clear waivers in order to be reassigned to Minor League camp.
The looming decision on the status of Evan Longoria will likely be made in the next couple of days.
"That was obviously a big topic of discussion [at the meeting]," Maddon said.
Maddon speculated that the team will likely carry five outfielders, six infielders and two catchers on the Opening Day roster.
Ben Zobrist, who broke the tip of his left thumb, will visit the doctor Monday, but it's almost certain that he'll begin the season on the disabled list. If he does, the move will likely be retroactive to March 24, which would make him eligible to play on April 5. Zobrist was earmarked to be the team's super utility player, playing several different positions as needed. Without him, the options are limited, because the team must have a backup who can play shortstop.
Players still battling for spots include Reid Brignac, Eric Hinske, Elliot Johnson, Joel Guzman, Andy Cannizaro, Willy Aybar, Jon Webber, and John Rodriguez.
"Some of our overall trimming has to do with trade discussions out there," Friedman said. "There's a lot of moving parts here that we need to balance."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.