Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

10 things we think we know about Rays as season approaches

PORT CHARLOTTE — With the season opener — finally — just a week from today, there are things we know for sure about the Rays.

Chris Archer is pumped to make his third straight opening day start. Evan Longoria is prepped to anchor the lineup from his familiar No. 3 slot. Kevin Kiermaier has lots — like $53.5 million worth — of reasons to be happy to be back in centerfield. Reliever Brad Boxberger (lat) and shortstop Matt Duffy (left heel surgery recovery) not being able to join them are unexpected problems.

And there are things we just don't know, such as whether Tim Beckham will take advantage of his long-awaited shot at regular playing time, how Tommy John-rehabbed Alex Cobb and second-year lefty Blake Snell are going to pitch, if improvements shown at the end of last season by Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza Jr. under new hitting coach Chad Mottola carry over, and when Boxberger, Duffy and catcher Wilson Ramos (knee surgery) will be ready to play at a high level.

And in between are 10 things we think we know:

1 The Rays are looking to add another right-handed bat, possibly a shortstop (with Beckham going back to the planned utility role before Duffy's setback) but most likely an outfielder, even better if he can back up in center and has options. Finding one to check all boxes will be hard, so expect to hear lots of names, from Bryce Brentz, Peter Bourjos, Austin Jackson, Rob Refsnyder and Justin Ruggiano to even ex-mate B.J. Upton if dumped by Toronto. If they get one, that could force the decision for a utility infield spot between out-of-options Nick Franklin and promising prospect Daniel Robertson. If they don't, Michael McKenry could be in the mix as the extra bat.

RELATED: Observations from a busy week for the Rays

2 Derek Norris will be one of their catchers, his $1.2 million deal finalized Saturday, and Jesus Sucre has gotten strong enough reviews from some pitchers that he looks to be the other, though both have to be added to the 40-man roster. That means not only that the team won't carry either Curt Casali or Luke Maile but will look to trade one — probably Casali — to gain a roster spot.

3 Alex Colome, Xavier Cedeno, Tommy Hunter and Danny Farquhar are set in the bullpen, with Erasmo Ramirez to join them if he's still around. That leaves two (or three) spots to be filled from a group that includes just-claimed and out-of-options Jumbo Diaz, yet-to-impress Shawn Tolleson, Tommy John-rehabbed Chase Whitley and prospects Austin Pruitt (who throws with accuracy) and Jaime Schultz (who throws with velocity). Lefty Justin Marks is another option, but it will be hard to get him onto the roster, too.

4 That bullpen is the biggest area of concern throughout the organization, and with good reason, especially if Boxberger's absence extends into mid May, as it looks. That's even more so if they have to cover a lot of innings early as some of the starters get stretched out. The Triple-A Durham shuttle will be busy.

5 With Colby Rasmus opening on the DL, speedy outfielder Mallex Smith (above) is likely to not only make the opening day roster but be in the lineup April 2 against the Yankees, with a chance to show what he can do and how dynamic a duo he can form with Kiermaier.

6 Dickerson (above) is likely to be the leadoff hitter against right-handers, with manager Kevin Cash shifting philosophy and stacking his lefty hitters, with the top six potentially looking like this when Rasmus returns:

Corey Dickerson-L

Kevin Kiermaier-L

Evan Longoria-R

Brad Miller-L

Colby Rasmus-L

Logan Morrison-L

That would leave three righties in some order at the bottom: Souza, Beckham and the catcher.

Against lefties, Beckham is likely to be at the top and Rickie Weeks somewhere in the middle.

7 Brad Miller has looked pretty good in handling the move to second base, at least at exhibition-game speed, which was atop the list of questions going into camp. But there are still going to be some days when the Rays — built on pitching and tidy defense — might be suspect at three infield positions, with Beckham at shortstop, Miller at second and Weeks at first, and behind the plate.

8 The vaunted rotation might turn out to be a bit vulnerable, since after Archer and Jake Odorizzi, there are fair concerns based on spring performances about Cobb, Snell and Matt Andriese. Cobb, heading into his first full season since May 2015 Tommy John surgery, could have the biggest swing, based on whether his confidence in being close to getting locked in on his mechanics bears out. Solid showings this week could assuage some of those concerns.

9 It's going to be a hectic and interesting final week, as the Rays, after adding Norris on Saturday, might be looking to put up to four more on their 40-man roster: Hunter, Sucre, Weeks and the new bat. There are two spots to be had by putting Rule 5 RHP Kevin Gadea and Ramos on the 60-day DL, maybe another one or two from the Diaz/Ramirez/Tolleson shakeout. After that it gets trickier, with Franklin, reliever Ryan Garton and either Casali or Maile potentially in the discussion to be dumped.

10 The first month or so could get ugly in a hurry, with the first 14 games against the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox, and 33 of 43 against those three plus the Astros, Marlins and Indians.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

 
Comments
Rays morning after: Choi on an impressive pace

Rays morning after: Choi on an impressive pace

Ji-Man Choi doesn't want to get caught up in the numbers game.In leading the Rays to a 3-0 win over the Rangers on Monday, Choi hit his eighth homer in 43 games/146 at-bats since getting called up.That projects over a full season to roughly 30-plus h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Blake Snell goes for a Rays’ rarity, his 20th win Tuesday

Blake Snell goes for a Rays’ rarity, his 20th win Tuesday

ARLINGTON, Texas — Blake Snell is still focused on smaller numbers that can have a larger impact, specifically the 61/2 games his Rays are behind the A's for the final American League playoff spot after  a 3-0 victory over the Rangers on M...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: Tyler Glasnow strong in victory over Rangers

Rays journal: Tyler Glasnow strong in victory over Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas — RHP Tyler Glasnow finally got his first win as a Ray Monday night.And he flirted with — or at least winked at — a no-hitter along the way.With six solid innings (and only two infield hits allowed) by Glasnow, a te...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Rangers game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Rangers game

RHP Tyler Glasnow is obviously still a work in progress, and prone to the occasional blow up. But his first six innings on Monday were another impressive glimpse at the potential he has to be a dominating starter, which is exactly what the Rays had i...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Cardinals Kolten Wong rips Rays for not calling up brother Kean, says they are “bad organization”

Cardinals Kolten Wong rips Rays for not calling up brother Kean, says they are “bad organization”

Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong ripped the Rays for not calling up his younger brother, Kean, from Triple-A, saying he was passed over repeatedly."He's just in a bad organization which doesn't give chances to guys who deserve chances. That's tough for him. ...
Published: 09/17/18
For starters: Rays at Rangers, with a left-leaning lineup

For starters: Rays at Rangers, with a left-leaning lineup

UPDATE, 6:36: Cash said it's surprising Glasnow doesn't have a win given that he's pitched so well for the most part. … Cash said it just day off for Duffy, who will be back in the lineup on Tuesday. … TV man Dewayne Staats is expected to...
Published: 09/17/18
Rays journal: Team playing like it has ‘nothing to lose’

Rays journal: Team playing like it has ‘nothing to lose’

ST. PETERSBURG — The unnecessarily dramatic ending aside, the Rays felt pretty good about what transpired Sunday in securing a 5-4 victory and a series win over the previously red-hot A's."It showed me that we got a really good team here,'' roo...
Published: 09/16/18
Winning record gives Rays something to hold onto

Winning record gives Rays something to hold onto

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays, barring a total collapse by the A's or Yankees, are not going to post enough victories to make it into the playoffs.But after hanging on to the beat the A's again Sunday, 5-4, they insured that for the first time sinc...
Published: 09/16/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-A’s game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-A’s game

As impressive as Willy Adames' 420-foot homer was, making it more so was it came in the at-bat after his base­running blunder, getting doubled off second on Jesus Sucre's bases-loaded liner. All players make mistakes; good ones move on quickly.A...
Published: 09/16/18
Rays hang on to beat A’s 5-4, guarantee a winning season

Rays hang on to beat A’s 5-4, guarantee a winning season

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays, barring something really extraordinary, are not going to log enough victories to make it into the playoffs this year.But by hanging on Sunday to beat the A's for a second straight day, 5-4 this time, they made it offi...
Published: 09/16/18