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Tampa Bay Rays contemplating playoff rotation options

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A change in the Rays' pitching rotation for this weekend appears part of the plan for next week's playoffs.

With LHP David Price all but officially announced as the starter for Wednesday's opener, rookie RHP Wade Davis' final regular-season start was shifted from Saturday to Sunday.

That would seem to rule Davis out for a Game 2 start Thursday since he'd have only three days' rest but would put him on five days' rest for Game 3 on Oct. 9.

That would seemingly leave Game 2 for either RHP Matt Garza, who started Thursday and would be on six days' rest, or RHP James Shields, who starts tonight and would be on five. RHP Jeff Niemann is the other option.

The change also makes it possible Price could pitch, and even start, on Saturday.

Manager Joe Maddon said the plans were inter-related and hadn't been finalized, and he wouldn't say much else.

"There's a whole bunch of different subplots involved honestly, and if I go there then I'm going to start revealing things I don't want to reveal right now," he said.

Shields, who started the opener of the 2008 division and championship series, and has their only World Series win, is hoping to be part of the rotation.

"I would think so," he said. "I would imagine so. I got a little experience in the playoffs in 2008, and I pitched pretty well in the playoffs, I think. Hopefully that's a factor in what way they make their decision."

But he also understands the case against him: winless in his last five starts and a 5.04 ERA.

"I'm ready to go, I feel great, I'm ready to compete, I'm ready to get out there, I'm ready to win some playoff games," he said. "There's nothing I can really do. I have a 5 ERA right now, if you look at the numbers I'm probably not there. There's no one else I can blame but myself."

SORIANO JOINS TEAM BORAS: Closer Rafael Soriano was expected to be too expensive for the Rays to bring back after his record-setting season anyway.

And that price likely went up with Thursday's news that he hired mega-agent Scott Boras as his new representative.

"Why? Because I was thinking who will be the best for me, for my career," Soriano said. "So I picked him."

Soriano, who had been represented most recently by Peter Greenberg, talked to five firms this week and chose Boras, who was his agent briefly in 2000. Boras is already preparing his pitch, noting how rare it is for a closer to have the success Soriano has (44 saves in 47 chances, with a sub-.200 ERA) and be as young as he is (30).

"The closer market has not had anybody as a free agent with those kind of seasons and is 30 years old in the market," Boras said. "He is having an historic season. … (And) he's on track to be one of the all-time saves leaders based on what he's doing at this age."

Soriano is playing under a one-year, $7.25 million contract.

By some estimates, he could be in line for at least a three-year, $30 million contract.

Boras said Soriano is comfortable playing for the Rays and returning is "obviously something we would look at," but he also said he was aware of "the pronouncements" that Rays ownership will cut payroll.

LONGORIA UPDATE: 3B Evan Longoria has progressed well enough in his recovery from a left quad strain that there's "an outside chance" he could return tonight, Maddon said.

But there is also a possibility that he won't play at all this weekend as the team's primary focus is getting him as close to 100 percent as possible by Wednesday's playoff opener.

"That wouldn't bother me in the least; I don't think it's absolutely imperative that he does (play this weekend)," Maddon said. "The biggest thing is that he feels confident on his leg in the first game of the playoffs."

There is also a scenario, of course, that Longoria has a setback and can't play Wednesday, and the Rays are preparing for that, too. Having seen Dan Johnson at third base for three games, the Rays on Thursday took a look at Ben Zobrist, who could be a better defensive option and start against right-handers, with Reid Brignac at second.

Maddon said they are most comfortable with Sean Rodriguez, who could start there against left-handers.

MISCELLANY: OF Carl Crawford matched his career high with his 18th homer. … RHP Joaquin Benoit returned after missing two games to return to the Dominican Republic for the birth of his daughter. … The players are meeting today to vote playoff shares.

Tampa Bay Rays contemplating playoff rotation options 09/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 8:43am]

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