Tampa Bay Rays still deciding on order of playoff rotation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Rays are close to setting their rotation for the playoffs beyond LHP David Price in Wednesday's opening-game matchup with LHP Cliff Lee, but not enough to share.

Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays had settled on who the other three starters would be — presumably RHPs Matt Garza, Wade Davis and James Shields — but were still discussing the order in which they'd be used. An announcement could be made today.

The rotation is just one of the unresolved issues as the Rays work toward setting their 25-man roster in advance of the 10 a.m. Wednesday deadline.

Five of the seven bullpen spots seem claimed by Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate, Grant Balfour and Chad Qualls, leaving the Rays to pick the last two from the fifth starter (presumably Jeff Niemann, who worked in relief Sunday for the first time this season), the more experienced Dan Wheeler and rookies RHP Jeremy Hellickson and LHP Jake McGee (who would give them a second lefty, though the Rangers are primarily right-handed).

Similarly, most of the 14 position player spots are claimed, including INF/DH Dan Johnson, who seems to have earned a place.

But there is some ongoing discussion over the final two spot, including questions such as these:

• Keeping Rocco Baldelli, who could play a key role with the Rangers expected to start lefties in three of the five games, or Willy Aybar as an extra right-handed bat.

• Keeping Dioner Navarro as a third catcher or carrying Desmond Jennings as a pinch-runner.

"It's kind of still a little bit of a work in progress," Maddon said

FRIENDLY FACE: Benoit insists it won't be a bigger deal for him to face Texas, even though he spent 14 years in the Rangers organization, including parts of eight seasons in the majors, before being let go as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

"Personally, I think I'm going to treat it just like another team coming to the Trop," he said. "When the eighth inning comes and it's my time, I'm just going to do the same things that I've been doing. Three up and three down, and if somebody gets on, I'll go after the next guy."

But won't it be a little fun?

"It's going to be fun for all of us," he said.

UNFRIENDLY PLACE: The Rangers have had their problems at the Trop, losing 10 of their past 12, and are concerned enough that they are flying in today for an extra workout rather than waiting until Tuesday.

"There are some traps in it; you just pray they don't come into play, but there are rules in place for that," manager Ron Washington said in Arlington. "It's why we're getting there (today). That's why we're going to take as much time as we can and try to learn the stadium as best we can."

The Rangers were swept in a mid August visit, outscored 24-11 while missing several key players, and when they left, Washington said they'd be "better equipped" the next time and to "stay tuned."

Sunday, he said: "We're totally different team than we were when we were there."

MISCELLANY: The Rays will take today off and work out Tuesday afternoon. … Soriano's 45 saves led the AL and were third most overall. … After going six straight games with six or fewer hits, the Rays got seven (in 12 innings) Sunday. … The Rays finished one run shy of the franchise-record 803 they had last season. … The Royals were 53-0 when leading after eight innings before Sunday. … Sunday was the 25th day the Rays and Yankees had been tied for first. … The TBS announcing crew for the ALDS will include Don Orsillo on play-by-play, Buck Martinez as analyst and Marc Fein as reporter.

Tampa Bay Rays still deciding on order of playoff rotation 10/03/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 4, 2010 8:22pm]

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