Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' lineup isn't yet in order

FORT MYERS — Asking around what the Rays' batting order will look like to start the season gets a shrug, a good laugh, a couple of "Good luck with that" responses.

Manager Kevin Cash said Monday there is still a lot of information to be gathered and processed, and he probably won't lock in on a plan until the last week before the April 3 opener. And, he made clear, don't read anything into the spring lineups.

Only two things seem set: Evan Longoria will hit third, as he prefers, and the catcher, whether it's Curt Casali or Hank Conger or Rene Rivera, will hit ninth.

Beyond that, well, the Rays haven't yet gone much beyond that.

Kevin Kiermaier at the top or back toward the bottom? Corey Dickerson or Logan Morrison cleanup? What to do with Desmond Jennings? All good questions.

First, the Rays need to see more from the new additions —Brad Miller, Steve Pearce, Dickerson, Morrison, Conger — who have created this good-problem-to-have situation to get a sense of where they best fit into their plan.

Or, more accurately, plans as the lineups look as if they will look decidedly different against lefty and righty starters.

Plus, Cash wants to talk with the new guys, and some of the returnees, to see where they are most comfortable, though acknowledging, "We can't appease everybody putting them where they want."

Theories about writing out lineups have become so complex — for example, slotting the best hitter second was in vogue — that books have been written about them.

Cash said his basic theory is "putting as much pressure" as possible on the opposing team. That means constructing the lineup to make it hazardous not only for the opposing starter but the manager as he tries to use his bullpen to navigate the later innings, in terms of who is hitting, who is more likely to be pinch-hit for and who is available off the bench to do so.

"I know from managing against teams last year, the guys that went right-left-right-left, that's difficult because any time you get into those heavy innings you could run through three (bullpen) arms right then," Cash said.

"Now if you've got certain hitters you're great with who they're facing, stack 'em up front. Personally, I think we really like to balance it out where we can get some versatility and make some tough decisions on the opposing team."

Another factor to consider is keeping those "certain" hitters in the same spots vs. right- and left-handed pitchers. Another side issue is what they do with James Loney, if he isn't traded, as expected, to make room for Pearce and Morrison to share time at first.

So, with all that said, what could they be thinking about?

• Leadoff: Actually one of the biggest questions, at least against right-handed starters. Miller, a lefty hitter, will get a lot of consideration. Kiermaier may eventually make it up here, but probably not this season, or at least to start. With Longoria third, a right-hander fits better at the top to get that righty-lefty thing working. Jennings has done it with some success but seems to slot better lower. One interesting option: Souza, if he shows he can strike the right balance between being aggressive and selective. If they do pick a righty hitter, he could stay there full time. If it's Miller or Kiermaier, expect Brandon Guyer to take over vs. lefties.

• No. 2: Kiermaier said he has his eye on this spot, and having him on base and in motion for the heavy hitters has its appeal. Miller could fit, too. But another idea is to put a bigger bat, preferably with a decent on-base percentage, and set the stage for an early ambush, Morrison or Dickerson. Against lefties, Jennings or Pearce or Souza could end up here.

• Middle of the order: With Dickerson or Morrison second and Longoria third, the Rays could create an imposing stack. Figure on either Dickerson or Morrison fourth then Logan Forsythe fifth and either Souza or Jennings sixth. Versus lefties, they can start with seven right-handed hitters, with the potential for a 2-6 of something like Jennings, Longoria, Forsythe, Pearce and Souza.

• From there: The seventh spot will be filled as a result of what they do at Nos. 2 and 6. The default will be Kiermaier eighth and the catcher ninth.

If nothing else, for a team that nine times last season batted Jake Elmore sixth, they have considerably more options to pick from.

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

Comments
For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

3B Matt Duffy came into camp saying he felt really good and his left foot troubles, that kept him out all of 2017, were behind him.The Rays are giving him the chance to show that right away in the exhibition season with back to back starts as they fa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The truth about the Tampa Bay Rays’ reset

The truth about the Tampa Bay Rays’ reset

The Tampa Bay Rays are not going to be very good this year.We already knew that.They have gutted a team that won 80 games last season. Among those sent packing: Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi and team MVP Steven Souza Jr.Yeah, this thi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays Saturday scheduleAt Red Sox1:05, JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort MyersPitchers: Rays – RH Jake Faria, RH Matt Andriese, RH Dustin McGowan, LH Ryan Yarbrough, RF Chaz Roe, LH Jose Alvarado, RH Evan Scribner, RH Jose Mujica; Red...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

SARASOTA — Colby Rasmus is making a new start with the Baltimore Orioles after taking an eight-month break from baseball.Rasmus signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles this week, after abruptly leaving the Rays in midseason. The contrac...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

The Rays won the home game of their opening-day, split-squad set, beating the Pirates, 6-3.1B Brad Miller, with an opposite-field double off the wall, and CF Kevin Kiermaier, with a bloop single to shallow center, provided the early offense.2B Daniel...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

PORT CHARLOTTE — One of the key story lines in Rays camp is seeing what kind of bounce-back season they can get out of a healthy Brad Miller, coming off October core muscle repair surgery.And while Miller isn't feeling 100 percent — he st...
Published: 02/23/18
Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

SARASOTA — A split-squad team of Rays held on for a 6-3 victory Friday against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.Yonny Chirinos, making his debut as a Ray, tossed a pair of scoreless innings. He allowed an infield single to former Ray Tim Beckham...
Published: 02/23/18
Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

The Rays open the exhibition season with not one, but two games today.Non-roster pitcher Vidal Nuno will start against the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. in Port Charlotte. Denard Span, Matt Duffy, Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechava...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

The Rays got the worst-case news they were dreading, that top prospect RHP Brent Honeywell has a torn UCL and is headed for Tommy John  surgery.Honeywell said he plans to have the surgery as soon as possible to expedite his return sometime in th...
Published: 02/23/18