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Tampa Bay Rays catcher Dioner Navarro leaves team after not making playoff roster

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays told C Dioner Navarro he was not going to be on the roster for the first round of the playoffs.

And Navarro told them he was going home.

The Rays wanted Navarro to remain with the team and keep working out so he'd be in shape in case they needed to add him to the roster in the event of injury, or for the next round should they advance.

INF/DH Willy Aybar, whose exclusion from the roster was a much bigger surprise (as the Rays chose OF/DH Rocco Baldelli and OF Desmond Jennings), and four left-off pitchers — RHP Andy Sonnanstine, RHP Lance Cormier and rookies RHP Jeremy Hellickson and LHP Jake McGee — all stayed with the team.

But Navarro, who was sent to the minors for two months and played sparingly after his Sept. 1 recall (10 games, five starts), declined, and seemingly brought his tenure with the Rays to a bad ending. He made $2.1 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration again.

As a result, the Rays summoned minor-leaguer Nevin Ashley, a spring favorite of manager Joe Maddon who finished the season at Triple-A Durham after spending most of the year at Double-A Montgomery, hitting .255 with seven homers and 45 RBIs.

If a player is injured during the series, he can be replaced on the roster but has to remain out for the next round as well.

ON THE IN: Baldelli's inclusion on the roster, as well as the opening game starting lineup as the DH, added to his remarkable comeback story. He began the season without a job, then spent most of the summer as a minor-league instructor before starting to play again in July.

He didn't have a good day, though, going 0-for-3, including a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the first inning. Baldelli is still somewhat limited by an illness that causes muscle fatigue, and there was some question after Wednesday's game if he'd be able to be in the lineup today as expected.

Jennings was kept primarily for his speed and defense, with plans to use him as a pinch-runner.

The decision to exclude Aybar, who started 65 games and appeared in 100 total, was difficult, Maddon said. "We just determined the other guys we have chosen we have a better chance of using them more often than him. No slight against Willy. We'd love to have a 26-man roster right now, that's just not the way it is."

Aybar said he understood: "I don't make the decision, the team made the decision." He could be added if the Rays advance (or if Baldelli is unable to keep playing).

The final bullpen spots went to No. 5 starter Jeff Niemann and veterans Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler.

BACK TO BUSINESS: Closer Rafael Soriano wouldn't say why he went home to the Dominican Republic and missed Tuesday's workout expect that it was for personal reasons. He did say there were no medical or family emergencies and no legal issues.

LINING UP: Maddon hinted Tuesday that the lineup would be different and, for the 130th time in 163 games, it was.

SS Jason Bartlett (much to his surprise) returned to the leadoff slot for the first time since May 29, and B.J. Upton hit second for just the third time this season, all in the past three games. Also interesting was that Carlos Peña was in the fifth spot, a product of his prior numbers against Rangers LHP Cliff Lee (6-for-29 with three homers).

MISCELLANY: David Price edged New York's CC Sabathia and Boston's Jon Lester for the Warren Spahn Award as baseball's top left-hander. … Rays TV man Dewayne Staats said back problems (and an expectant daughter) kept him from hosting the Sun Sports postgame shows for the first round, but he hopes to return if the Rays advance.

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Dioner Navarro leaves team after not making playoff roster 10/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 12:52am]
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