Rays roster decisions answer some questions, raise others

The Rays on Sunday essentially cut their roster to 26.
Rays starting pitcher Yonny Chirinos throws during an earlier spring game. [(Monica Herndon | Times]
Rays starting pitcher Yonny Chirinos throws during an earlier spring game. [(Monica Herndon | Times]
Published March 25, 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE – A flurry of Sunday moves that essentially reduced the Rays' roster to 26 players answered several questions about their plans going into Thursday's opener and raised a few others.

Here are some of the things we now know:

* The Rays really like rookies Yonny Chirinos and lefty Ryan Yarbrough.

They won jobs as multi-inning relievers in the eight-man bullpen, along with Andrew Kittredge, who debuted last season and pitched in 15 games. Their ascension came at the expense of Austin Pruitt, who made 30 appearances last year but pitched his way to Triple A with a rough spring.

* Jonny Venters will be pitching somewhere, but not for the Rays right now.

The veteran lefty had an impressive spring, logging his eighth scoreless outing Sunday, in trying to make it back to the majors for the first time since 2012.

The Rays told him he won't make the opening day roster, which means he is headed back to Triple-A Durham unless another team calls with the promise of a big-league job. If so, the Rays figure to do the right thing and work out a small deal to get him there, especially since Venters in a way was a victim of their bullpen structure since they aren't carrying a second short lefty reliever.

*  They didn't see any value in keeping around veteran relievers Dan Jennings and Daniel Hudson, both acquired in trade.

Both were told they won't make the team even though it will cost the Rays money to cut them loose unless trades can be worked out quickly.

Jennings didn't impress much after being acquired from the White Sox in July for 2014 first-round pick Casey Gillaspie (who wasn't very good either), and he didn't change any minds this spring.

Once Jose Alvarado decisively won the lefty short relief job, and Jennings didn't look like he could handle a multi-inning role, there was no place for him. Jennings can be dropped for roughly $600,000, one-fourth of his non-guaranteed $2.375 million salary, though the Rays have to make that call on Monday.

Hudson, whom they had to take back from the Pirates to make the Corey Dickerson trade, is considerably more expensive, as they'd owe him $4.5 million, with Pittsburgh covering another $1 million, if they can't find a trade.

Hudson never looked to fit, and a rough spring didn't change anything as he would have had to displace veteran Sergio Romo or out-of-options Chaz Roe.

The Rays can try to justify it by saying that it would have cost them $1.5 million to release Dickerson, but that still seems like it would have been a better move.

Their hope now has to be that they really, really guessed right on the unheralded infield prospect they got back, Tristan Gray, a 2017 13th-round pick who played in the New York-Penn League. Maybe a good sign was that Gray did homer Sunday in his first big-league spring game.

*  They still haven't decided on the final outfield spot.

In reassigning Jason Coats and multi-talented Micah Johnson to minor-league camp, the Rays reduced the competition to versatile veteran Brandon Snyder vs. rookie Johnny Field vs. TBA. That's because it seems just as likely they will end up going outside and bringing in someone they feel is a better overall fit.

Snyder has the experience of playing parts of five seasons in the majors and the benefit of also playing corner infield spots and serving as a third catcher. Field, who spent the last 1½ seasons at Durham, would provide better defense and speed.

Ideally they'd find someone with a better mix of skills, though it seems more likely to be a younger, controllable player in a trade or a victim of a roster crunch than a released veteran such as Peter Bourjos, who went to the Braves. This decision looks to be their last before the Thursday morning roster deadline.

* The rest of the team looks pretty much as expected.

Joey Wendle's emergence as the other half of the second base platoon with Daniel Robertson the biggest spring development after the acquisition of first baseman C.J. Cron.

The four starters will be Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Faria, with Jose De Leon headed to the DL. The bullpen will be Matt Andriese, Alvarado, Chirinos, Alex Colome, Kittredge, Roe, Romo and Yarbrough.

Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre are the catchers, with Adam Moore reassigned and Curt Casali going to Triple A.  The infielders are Matt Duffy, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brad Miller, Cron, Robertson and Wendle, with Kean Wong reassigned. The top four outfielders are Carlos Gomez, Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith and Denard Span.

Marc Topkin can be reached at Follow @TBTimes_Rays