ST. PETERSBURG — The status of LF Carl Crawford's right hand could also affect how many arms the Rays have in the bullpen for the playoffs.
After all-day Monday meetings and a spirited rally, the Rays were close — "like 95 percent," manager Joe Maddon said — to deciding on their final roster. But as they wait another day or two to gauge how effective Crawford could be, they are debating whether to carry a 15th position player or an 11th pitcher on the 25-man roster.
"There's no clear-cut answer," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We're trying to go through as many scenarios as we can trying to figure out what we feel like best covers us."
Crawford's status is "a big part of that," Freidman said. If he is on the roster, they have to decide whether they need an extra outfielder (Jonny Gomes, Justin Ruggiano) or hitter (Dan Johnson). The alternative is having the extra arm in the bullpen, which could impact whether two or three make the roster from the group of Trever Miller, Troy Percival (whose health hasn't been determined, Friedman said), David Price and the non-Game 4 starter between Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine (who would more likely be in the pen if he doesn't start).
Though the roster won't be finalized until the 10 a.m. Thursday deadline, the Rays took the first steps, informing RHPs Mitch Talbot and Jeff Niemann they were not needed but telling them all to keep playing catch.
HELP AVAILABLE: INF Reid Brignac has recovered from the Aug. 6 broken left wrist that sidelined him at Triple-A Durham, is playing regularly in instructional league and could be added to the roster if a middle infielder is injured. … C Shawn Riggans, who had right knee surgery Sept. 10, is recovering well and could return if the Rays advance to the second round.
HAIR APPARENT: CF B.J. Upton leaned against a concrete pillar behind the stage of the Rays' Straub Park rally, sipping a water and taking in the shorn vibe. There were Mohawks on his teammates, little old ladies, children and the helmet atop the scooter through the hedge. He had started this bay area mania, with some shaping suggestions from DH Cliff Floyd, while bored and nursing a quad injury. When 3B Evan Longoria, Jackson and Maddon followed him to the barber chair, a team identity had been found.
Now fully realizing his influence, Upton joked he was worried about starting any new trends.
"I think that might be it," he said. "I don't want anything else to get out of hand."
WAITING GAME: OF Fernando Perez knows he could be the odd man out if Crawford is healthy enough to make the playoff roster, but he says he's fine with whatever happens. "I'm excited for the team either way. If I have to watch from the Dome, I'll be just as proud to do that. Whatever is best for the team numbers-wise is a win. That's kind of the attitude everybody should have."
NICE WEEK: Utilityman Ben Zobrist, 28, shared AL player of the week with the Rangers' Hank Blalock after batting .455 with a double, a triple, four homers and seven RBIs. His homer in the 11th was the deciding run in a season-ending 8-7 win at Detroit.
"I'm ecstatic," said Zobrist, who is batting .253. "It's been an up-and-down year for me, but I've stayed the course and we're just excited where we're at."
LEG UP: Crawford said one positive offshoot of his lengthy absence with a finger injury has been the chance to freshen his legs. "I've gotten a chance to rest my hamstrings and my legs feel fine," he said. "I felt good running today. Hopefully I'll be able to run in the playoffs."
CHEMISTRY LESSON: Special assistant Don Zimmer has witnessed the power of team chemistry throughout his long career. He sees a special blend of it with the Rays: "You look at our team and you couldn't name a guy on this club who didn't have something to do with a win. And that's what it's been all about. We've got guys hitting walkoff home runs and walkoff doubles — and nobody ever heard of them. That's the way the whole season's been, and Joe Maddon has pushed a lot of right buttons."
DREAM DEBUT: As rookie seasons go, this one has been hard to top for Rays 3B Evan Longoria: "Shoot, making the All-Star team. We're in the playoffs my first year. The first time this team has ever had a winning record. So many things have happened — it's just crazy for a first year. The main thing we have to do now is focus and win Game 1."