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Tampa Bay Rays to announce roster for AL Division Series vs. Texas Rangers on Wednesday

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays decided to wait until today's 10 a.m. deadline to announce their 25-man playoff roster, giving themselves more time to think about their final choices and to try to figure out the Rangers' plans.

The remaining discussion was about four players for the last two position-player spots, manager Joe Maddon said, and part of the conversation involved how many left-handed relievers the Rangers would carry, with Clay Rapada a possible third, in addition to their two left-handed starters.

The Rays also had to fill two remaining spots in their bullpen. One was expected to go to No. 5 starter Jeff Niemann (who would provide backup for struggling starter James Shields in Game 2) and the other to veteran Dan Wheeler. If so, that would mean rookies Jeremy Hellickson and Jake McGee would be left out, and that Randy Choate would be the only lefty.

The Rays' position-player choices are believed to include picking between Rocco Baldelli and Willy Aybar for an extra right-handed bat, and whether to carry Dioner Navarro as a third catcher or Desmond Jennings as a pinch-runner.

"Part of the problem is that we do have options," Maddon said. "Some teams don't have those options; you just have to use these 14 guys, whatever.

"But that's who we've been all year. We've done this. And that's the part about the lineup differences. It's been based on matchups. You know that if we go five games, you're going to see three out of five left-handed starters … and (the Rangers) have the chance for three or possibly four left-handers in the bullpen, too."

SORIANO ABSENT: All-Star closer Rafael Soriano missed Tuesday's workout with team permission to go home to the Dominican Republic for what the Ray said was a personal matter. He was scheduled to return to the Tampa Bay area Tuesday night by private plane.

LINING UP: Having used 129 different lineups in 162 regular-season games, Maddon has apparently come up with yet another combination. He wasn't ready to share his plans for Game 1 against ace LHP Cliff Lee, but said: "I'm just doing something a little bit different, so I didn't want to pop it early on. I don't think this one's been used."

LONGORIA READY: Third baseman Evan Longoria will return to the lineup after missing the last 10 games of the regular season because of a strained left quadriceps. But he said he won't be 100 percent. "It's as good as it's going to be, probably 85 or 90 percent," he said after Tuesday's workout. "I think holding back that last series (in Kansas City) was the best thing for it. In the last four days, it has probably progressed the most."

SHIELDS UP: Shields was wondering where — or even if — he'd be in the postseason rotation, and the right-hander said he was thrilled with the responsibility of starting Game 2.

"This is my time to shine," Shields said. "I've definitely had a lot of scrutiny over the last month or so, but this team has a lot of faith in me."

Shields has won't a game since late August and finished with a 13-15 record and 5.18 ERA.

"I didn't put up the greatest numbers this year, but I feel really good right now. I feel my stuff is pretty sharp right now; I just need to be able to locate it," he said. "All the stuff I did during the season is out the window. The guys have faith in me to be able to go out there and do my job, and I'm grateful for that."

MISCELLANY: The Rays spent the first part of their workout reviewing bunt-defense plays and taking infield practice. … A potential Game 4 is set for 1:07 p.m. Sunday. A Game 5 on Tuesday would be at 5:07, or 8:07 if the Yankees-Twins series is over. … Maddon and several Rays were battling colds. … Tim Welke, a 27-year veteran, heads the umpiring crew, joined by Jim Wolf, Jerry Meals, Bill Miller, Jeff Kellogg and Mike DiMuro.

Times staff writer Tom Jones contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays to announce roster for AL Division Series vs. Texas Rangers on Wednesday 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 11:16pm]
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