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Tampa Bay Rays facing several more roster decisions in coming weeks

ST. PETERSBURG — So, now that the Rays got that one out of the way …

Calling up Hank Blalock and shipping out Pat Burrell was just the first of several decisions the Rays will make in the coming weeks.

• Bullpen: Assuming J.P. Howell is ready for a late May-early June return — though he still is taking small steps in his left-shoulder rehabilitation; the true test comes in minor-league games — the Rays will have to make room. Most likely to go would be Joaquin Benoit or Andy Sonnanstine, neither of whom has pitched many key innings.

Consider: Benoit likely would be lost on waivers, Sonnanstine has options and can be sent to the minors, Lance Cormier can return to the long-relief role, and the Rays like to conserve assets. Gut feeling: Sonnanstine goes to Triple A to get regular relief work.

• Catcher: It doesn't work roster-wise for the Rays to carry three, so when Kelly Shoppach (right knee surgery) comes off the disabled list in June, either John Jaso or Dioner Navarro has to go.

As much as the Rays are thrilled to ride the wave of Jaso's hot start, there's a good sense he'll cool off. So sending him back to the minors won't seem like as big a deal in a few weeks as it would now. They could send down Navarro instead (though the blow to his confidence might render him useless the rest of the season) or trade him (though the return would hardly be worth it). Again, think asset conservation. Gut feeling: Jaso goes back to Triple A until needed again, or September.

• DH/bench: If/when Matt Joyce (elbow strain) gets healthy/is ready to play (and in the majors), he could be the next option if Blalock isn't much help. Or Joyce, a good defensive outfielder, could be brought up anyway, taking the place of Sean Rodriguez, who has had a limited role, or Reid Brignac, if he cools off. Doing so would limit the Rays' flexibility and put Ben Zobrist at second more often. Gut feeling: Rodriguez initially goes down.

Also worth pondering: How long to stick with Zobrist at No. 3 and Carlos Peña No. 5 in the batting order, whether to move Jason Bartlett out of the leadoff slot, and what to do with sizzling prospect RHP Jeremy Hellickson.

Tampa Bay Rays facing several more roster decisions in coming weeks 05/15/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 15, 2010 10:44pm]
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