Gameday report: Rays at Twins
UPDATE, 12:06: Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci ranks Carl Crawford's contract situation one of the most interesting storylines of the upcoming season, raising the question if the Rays "have the nerve to trade Crawford during the season even if they are in a race? It's crazy, sure, but they were only 4 1/2 games out of the wild card last year when they traded Scott Kazmir and they could have prospect Desmond Jennings ready to replace Crawford by midseason."
UPDATE, 11:46: Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays are closing in on making their final roster decisions, and that he will talk with exec VP Andrew Friedman either tonight or Thursday morning. Both Mike Ekstrom and Joaquin Benoit are competing for the final bullpen spot, Maddon sounded more encouraging in talking about Benoit, though it's still possible they could find help outside. The other decision appears to be between Hank Blalock (see separate blog post about him not wanting to go to the minors) and Reid Brignac. ... The injury report was positive, with Maddon saying both C Dioner Navarro and INF Willy Aybar felt find after playing Tuesday and should be good to go for the opening day roster. He also said no final decision has been made on OF Matt Joyce but that seems almost just procedural at this point as he won't be ready to start the season.
UPDATE, 11:35: And, finally, a chance to post the lineups:
E. Johnson lf
UPDATE, 9:09: Further roster whittling, as C Alvin Colina and INF Joe Dillon were reassigned to minor-league camp this morning. That leaves 30 on the roster, though LHP J.P. Howell is headed to the DL and OF Matt Joyce is likely to join him. INF Elliot Johnson is out of options and unlikely to make the team, which leaves 27. With 23 spots set, there are four players competing for the final two spots - Hank Blalock and Reid Brignac on the bench, Mike Ekstrom and Joaqun Benoit in the bullpen.
DEVELOPING: There are already boxes being packed as the Rays prepare for the second-to-last day of spring training in Port Charlotte, and another trip down I-75 (and the fifth of the spring) to Fort Myers, this time to play the Twins.
There's no lineup posted yet in the clubhouse, but among the players scheduled to make the trip are Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez. Also, both of the players competing for the final roster spot (Hank Blalock, Reid Brignac) and one of the relievers competing for the final bullpen spot (Mike Ekstrom).