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Tampa Bay Rays will use stretch run to help decide several spots on playoff roster

TORONTO — The primary focus right now, of course, is on trying to win enough games to get to the playoffs. But the Rays are also thinking about and sampling some of the options for when they get there, with some interesting decisions awaiting at several positions. Among them:

Rotation: At this point, about the only things that seem for sure are that the Rays will need four starters in the first round, and that David Price and Matt Garza are two of them.

Wade Davis obviously looked good Saturday, and how Jeff Niemann and — as shocking as this would have sounded in February — James Shields do from here on out will determine who joins them. And it remains unlikely that Jeremy Hellickson will.

DH: Arguably, the most wide-open spot, or spots, on the roster. Most likely, there will be a platoon, so there are duel competitions right now between lefties Brad Hawpe and Dan Johnson, and between righty Rocco Baldelli and switch-hitter Willy Aybar.

And depending how those shake out, there could be another decision on whether both reserve INFs Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac make the 25-man squad, as well as potential pinch-runner Desmond Jennings.

Catcher: The first decision will be whether it works to carry three, which would be the easy way to provide the most flexibility.

But if the Rays opt to go with two, they'd have a tough decision on whom to pair with rookie John Jaso — sticking with Kelly Shoppach, and his .187 average, or figuring Dioner Navarro can't be any worse a hitter and is much better defensively.

Bullpen: Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate and Grant Balfour are set, leaving two or three other spots, depending on whether the Rays opt for 10 pitchers and 15 position players, or 11 and 14.

Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls have the most experience, but the Rays may end up picking between them as they also consider Hellickson (assuming he gets the bullpen gig figured out), Lance Cormier, the left-out starter, and LHP Jake McGee, who is about to join the mix.

Tampa Bay Rays will use stretch run to help decide several spots on playoff roster 09/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 11, 2010 8:00pm]

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