PORT CHARLOTTE — Injuries can happen, trades can be made and circumstances can change before Sunday's deadline, but the Rays on Tuesday appeared to all but set their 25-man opening day roster.
They told outfielder Brandon Guyer he won the final bench job, which means veteran infielders Wilson Betemit and Jayson Nix are headed to Triple-A Durham or elsewhere.
And they told non-roster reliever Mark Lowe he didn't make the team, which would mean Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke get the final two spots in the bullpen, though that won't be official until a decision is made on the administrative status of Juan Carlos Oviedo, who won't be ready to start the season.
Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays made the decisions Tuesday as a professional and personal courtesy to the three non-roster veterans (Betemit, Lowe, Nix) since the team is breaking camp after tonight's exhibition and moving workouts to Tropicana Field.
"We wanted to inform them what our intentions are right now," Maddon said. "Those kinds of things can change. And if they do change, something may happen where they get to stay with us."
Also, the Rays gave veteran lefty Erik Bedard his release so he could seek a job with another big-league team, but they hope he ends up at Durham to provide starting depth, a more pressing need with right-hander Alex Colome suspended until late May due to a failed drug test.
Word in the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon was that both Gomes and Lueke were told they made the team. But Maddon created some intrigue — potentially unwarranted — by saying that was not official, and that it may not be for several days. That's so the Rays can decide what to do with Oviedo, who reported a month late to camp due to visa issues and is likely to be placed on the disabled list — or some other administrative move — for a few weeks until deemed ready.
"With all due respect to everything, I just can't tell you the whole thing right now," Maddon said.
Lueke, who is out of options, seemed likely from the start of camp to make the team. The bigger news would be the Rays rewarding Gomes, who had a dazzling spring (allowing two hits in nine scoreless innings) but had an option remaining and could have been sent to Durham. Lowe, 30, made a strong case (one run in 101/3 innings) and said previously if he didn't make the team likely would use the Friday out clause in his contract to seek a big-league job elsewhere.
Guyer, 28, has battled injuries since coming to the Rays in the January 2011 Matt Garza deal with the Cubs, posting solid numbers when healthy at Triple A (.305 average, .865 on-base plus slugging percentage) but playing in only 18 big-league games.
"We haven't seen a lot here but we really like what he'd done in Triple A," Maddon said. "A combination of skill and the metrics that are behind him indicate this guy should be a pretty good baseball player."
Guyer, who will join Logan Forsythe, Sean Rodriguez and the other catcher on an all-right-handed bench, was thrilled with the news. "I've been working my whole life to make an opening day roster and be up here," he said. "So I'm really excited for the opportunity. Now the hard work starts. Now I've got to keep grinding and keep doing everything I can do to help the team win."
Betemit, who also reported to camp late, said he'd have his agent see if there were any big-league jobs but otherwise would report to Durham. "I like this team," he said. "I don't want to go back to Triple A, but if I have to go here I'll go back." Nix, whom Maddon praised frequently during camp, likely will do the same.
Bedard lost out on the No. 5 spot in the rotation to Jake Odorizzi, but Maddon said they liked him and hoped to get him back in the organization if he doesn't find a spot in the majors.
"I would like to believe that if it doesn't work out based on our relationship we've built here he'd want to come back to us because we really would like to have him back," Maddon said. Bedard's agent, Mark Pieper, did not return an email.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.