Maddon on what Rays need, have, see
Manager Joe Maddon was in town and at Tropicana Field on Tuesday to watch the group of 22 top prospects participating in the team's first winter development program, and shared a few thoughts on what he saw and what's going on with the big-league team.
* Expect several players to be added to the Rays spring training roster, possibly three more catchers just to handle the workload, but also potential additional candiates at second base and in the bullpen. "You may still find somebody you really want to bring in to compete in some way,'' he said. "Primarily at those two spots.''
The second base position is interesting because it is tied in a way to rightfield in that the Rays have to decide whether to play Ben Zobrist in one of
those positions or continue to move him between the two. If Zobrist ends up the everyday rightfielder, or in a platoon at both spots, the candidates at second base are limited to Sean Rodriguez (who was acquired from the Angels in the Scott Kazmir trade), Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson.
Available free agent second basemen, according to mlbtraderumors.com, include: Ronnie Belliard, Jerry Hairston Jr., Orlando Hudson, Adam Kennedy, Felipe Lopez, Mark Loretta, Pablo Ozuna.
After acquiring closer Rafael Soriano the Rays appear to have the bullpen covered, but have had interest in bringing in another proven reliever.
Unsigned relievers include:
RHPs: Jose Arredondo, Joaquin Benoit, Chad Bradford, Doug Brocail, Kiko Calero, D.J. Carrasco, Santiago Casilla, Brendan Donnelly, Octavio Dotel, Eric Gagne, Dan Giese, Edgar Gonzalez, Tom Gordon, Jason Isringhausen, Jorge Julio, Bobby Keppel, Shane Loux, Seth McClung, Guillermo Mota, Joe Nelson, Chan Ho Park, Tomo Ohka, Tim Redding, Duaner Sanchez, Rudy Seanez, Justin Speier, Russ Springer, Julian Tavarez, Jose Veras, Luis Vizcaino, Tyler Walker, David Weathers, Jeff Weaver, Jamey Wright.
LHPs: John Bale, Joe Beimel, Alan Embree, Mark Hendrickson, Ron Mahay, Will Ohman, Horacio Ramirez, Glendon Rusch, Scott Schoeneweis, Brian Shouse, Ron Villone, Jamie Walker.
* The battle between catchers Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach "is an open competition in a sense, but I mean, for me, I think we've got two really good catchers and I don't know exactly how it's going to work yet. I really, truly don't. I saw Navi (Monday) and he looks really good. I've talked to Shoppach on the phone - really an interesting, eager player. Everybody talks about him that knows him, they love him. I just think we're in a good position, I think we're in a very enviable position catching-wise. I do. I don't know how it's going to shake yet. I know they're both going to play a lot, I just don't know how it's going to shake.''
* Maddon has talked to 1B Carlos Pena and said he is "good" and should be ready to go at the start of spring training in recovery from his season-ending broken fingers; Maddon has yet to talk with Pat Burrell, who is coming off a disappointing season and was the subject of trade rumors.
* SS prospect Tim Beckham's physical change was among Maddon's initial observations, as Beckham, who turns 20 later this month, lost 10-12 pounds. "The body type, or style, has changed a bit,'' Maddon said. "He looks like he's lost pretty much a little bit of his baby fat. He's starting to lean out a bit, which is pretty nice to see. ... You can see he's grown up a bit in a good way.''
* Top prospects OF Desmond Jennings and RHP Jeremy Hellickson will get opportunities in spring training to play, as well as to get comfortable at the big-league level (and for the staff to get comfortable with them), but realistically it's for potential future duty later in the season as the Rays want to make sure they are ready when the opportunitiy arises. "To think that they're going to come out of camp and have a significant impact, I think that's really laying a lot on them right now,'' Maddon said. "I don't anticipate that.''
* LHP Jake McGee should be back to his old velocity by the start of the season to complete his recovery from Tommy John surgery but most likely is headed to the minors to log innings before being considered for a spot on the big-league team. "I'm not saying it's impossible, but I think it's unlikely,'' Maddon said.
* Maddon like the idea of the four-day camp, which was designed to give the players a chance to work out, and receive media training and community relations experience, and for the Rays to check their conditioning and progress. "I like the setup right now but I believe we're probably going to grow it over the next couple years,'' he said.