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Roster status will help determine composition of Tampa Bay Rays' opening day roster

FORT MYERS — In theory, the Rays are going to have some extremely difficult decisions to make over the next 10 days in cutting their roster down to the final 25.

At least, that's what they're going to say.

But in reality, if everything goes as it seems, the final verdicts may be pretty easy. And obvious.

Because of all the guiding principles, theories and philosophies the Rays operate by, the one that often takes precedent is a simple one: conservation of their assets.

So, for example, while Casey Kotchman is having a strong spring, the Rays are still more likely to keep Dan Johnson as their first baseman. And while Felipe Lopez may yet show cause to take the utility infielder job from Elliot Johnson, that's probably not going to happen.

The reason is their roster status. By going with Johnson and Johnson, who are on the 40-man roster, the Rays don't necessarily have to pick.

Kotchman and Lopez, as well as INF Joe Inglett, OF Justin Ruggiano and RHP Chris Bootcheck, are on minor-league contracts. So if they don't make the team — and don't get a legit opportunity elsewhere in the majors, in which case the Rays would likely work something out — they would go to play at Triple-A Durham, providing the Rays depth and the right to change their mind a few weeks or months into the season. (RHP Juan Cruz is on a minor-league deal, too, though it appears as of now he will make the opening day roster.)

"We appreciate the fact that the 25 guys we break camp with are not going to remain status quo throughout the entire season," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "Depth has been a very important part of the success we've had in the past, and we are extremely mindful of preserving it. We will go about our roster decisions as we have in previous years of balancing that fact.

"If a decision is obvious then we're obviously going to go that way. But when decisions are very close and more of a split camp, then obviously roster status will play a part in that decision."

TROP BOP: Joe Torre acted quickly in his new role as MLB's executive VP of onfield operations to change the Tropicana Field catwalk ground rules back to what they had been.

His primary point was that there had been no real reason to change them for last year's playoffs, and he wanted uniformity with other stadiums. Also, he didn't like the new rule: "The fact that you heard 'do-over,' " Torre said.

He wants to make the best of a bad situation: "That ballpark has plenty of issues, unfortunately, with the structure of it."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Former Ray and new Cub Fernando Perez was surprised — and somewhat amused — to find out (from a friend …) that an interview he did with author Jonah Keri for the book, The Extra 2%, turned up as a Q-and-A in the April edition of Penthouse magazine. … The Rays will be selling Manny Ramirez dreadlock wigs at the Trop gift shop; also new this year will be game-used merchandise. … 3B Evan Longoria is one of 20 players featured in Diamond Dishes, a new book — by Julie Loria, wife of Marlins owner Jeffrey — focusing on cooking and favorite foods. Longoria, who said he loves to cook, includes his mom's stuffed cabbage and potato dumplings. … In an idea that may not end well, the team is giving some players small video cameras to shoot behind-the-scenes type stuff. … Longoria said no luck so far in recovering his car stolen from an Arizona lot. … Manager Joe Maddon is pushing for more "throwback" music to be played between innings at the Trop.

.Fast facts

Roster report

The fourth of our semi-educated guesses at the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

Pitchers (12): Juan Cruz-x, Wade Davis, Kyle Farns­worth, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee, Jeff Niemann, Joel Peralta, David Price, Cesar Ramos, Adam Russell, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine

Catchers (2): John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach

Infielders (5): Reid Brignac, Dan Johnson, Elliot Johnson, Evan Longoria, Sean Rodriguez

Outfielders (6): Johnny Damon, Sam Fuld, Matt Joyce, Manny Ramirez, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist

Disabled list (1): J.P. Howell

x Has to be added to 40-man roster.

Roster status will help determine composition of Tampa Bay Rays' opening day roster 03/19/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 20, 2011 2:39pm]

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