ST. PETERSBURG — The main reason the Rays signed OF/1B Shelley Duncan to a minor-league contract was for insurance in case DH Luke Scott got hurt again.
And with Scott not even making it to opening day because of a calf strain, and being out anywhere from two to five weeks, the Rays tapped into the policy by adding Duncan to the opening day roster they submitted Sunday.
"Just with the chance of it being four-five weeks, our focus was on somebody with extra-base-hit ability," executive VP Andrew Friedman said on a conference call. "We feel like Shelley has a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark and add value with his power."
Choosing Duncan, 33, over OF Brandon Guyer came with some risk, as Duncan is out of options and the Rays would have to expose him to waivers to send him down when Scott returns. Duncan will be used primarily as the DH against left-handed pitchers, with the potential to play some at first base, and will make about $800,000, with another $500,000 in incentive bonuses.
It also came with the cost of having to create space on the 40-man roster, as Duncan was in camp on a minor-league deal. Already needing one spot to add RHP Jamey Wright, the Rays ended up designating for assignment two catchers, Robinson Chirinos, who returned after missing last season with a concussion, and Stephen Vogt, who last year was the last-minute addition to the opening day roster.
Friedman said those decisions were difficult, leaving Chris Gimenez as the only other experienced catcher in the system, as they have 10 days to trade, release or pass Chirinos and Vogt through waivers.
But with Scott's status uncertain and a competitive division race about to start, they felt it was worthwhile.
"Sometimes you have to do certain things you're not incredibly comfortable doing for the sake of putting the best roster out there," Friedman said. "We're focused on getting out of the gates with a good start, and we feel like Shelley is going to help us do that."
Duncan has played parts of six seasons in the majors with the Yankees and Indians, with a career .229 average, 41 homers (in 830 at-bats), 138 RBIs and a .733 OPS.
The Rays first added RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo, who is recovering from elbow surgery, to the 40-man roster, then moved him to the 60-day DL (freeing up his spot), designated Vogt and Chirinos (who would have been at Triple A), and added Wright and Duncan. Reassigning C Craig Albernaz, who went to Durham, got them to the 25-man limit.
PRICE CHECK: The $202 million extension that RHP Justin Verlander got from Detroit would seem to the latest reason the cost of keeping LHP David Price will go up.
Price will be a free agent in 2016, but there is speculation the Rays will trade him before then, knowing they won't be able to afford him.
But Price didn't see any correlation with Verlander's deal.
"I don't think about, it," Price said. "If you ask me, it doesn't have anything to do with me. I'm focusing on this year with the Rays, and that's the way I'm doing it."
MISCELLANY: Both the Rays and Orioles will work out at the Trop today. … RHP Alex Cobb, who starts Saturday vs. ex-Ray Scott Kazmir, is to throw a simulated game today.