Rays journal: Rookie Daniel Robertson's defense earns him roster spot

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson (36) takes ground balls at third base during a workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, April 1, 2017.
Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson (36) takes ground balls at third base during a workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, April 1, 2017.
Published April 1, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays went for defense in making the final decisions setting their 25-man roster for today's opener, most notable in selecting rookie INF Daniel Robertson over veteran INF Nick Franklin, who was designated for assignment.

In doing so, the Rays also added two speedy, ground-covering outfielders in Peter Bourjos, who was acquired in trade last week, and Mallex Smith. They gave the final bullpen spot to RHP Jumbo Diaz, who was claimed on waivers last month. They still have to create one more 40-man roster spot by today's noon deadline.

With Tim Beckham starting at shortstop with Matt Duffy sidelined into May, the Rays felt having reliable glove work from Robertson — who can play second, short and third equally well and has experimented in the outfield — was more important than any offensive upside and versatility from the switch-hitting Franklin, who batted .362 during the spring and whose best position is second.

"Basically it was about fit," manager Kevin Cash said. "Nick hit the ball really well this spring, but we needed to make sure we were covered at shortstop, and we felt Robby did that."

Robertson said the work he put in on his defense paid off. "Early on in camp Cash came up to me and said, 'We know you can swing it, we just want you to go out there and make the routine plays and make us feel comfortable putting you out there,' " he said. "And I think I did a really good job of that."

Smith is a speed player who impressed with his contact-oriented lefty hitting approach and bunting prowess and can play all three outfield spots. Bourjos, acquired from the White Sox, gives them a right-handed hitter who can do the same.

Diaz, 33, gives them an experienced reliever (142 big-league games, 3.65 ERA) in a bullpen missing injured RHP Brad Boxberger. "We think he can provide depth in our bullpen, and we think he has a chance to get some big outs for us with a couple adjustments," Cash said.

Overall, Cash said, "the decisions we made were to help this team win, win now, win out of the gate."

For every action …

In adding OF Peter Bourjos, RHP Tommy Hunter, C Derek Norris, C Jesus Sucre and INF Rickie Weeks, the Rays have had to shuffle their 40-man roster. They gained four spots in designating for assignment INF Nick Franklin and putting C Wilson Ramos and RHPs Kevin Gadea and Shawn Tolleson on the 60-day DL.

They were still working Saturday night to clear the final spot, most likely by either trading C Curt Casali or designating for assignment either C Luke Maile or RHP Ryan Garton.

Franklin, acquired in the David Price trade along with since-traded LHP Drew Smyly and top INF prospect Willy Adames, is likely headed to waivers and could be claimed.

Number of the day

7 Players on the 25-man roster new to the organization: Peter Bourjos, Jumbo Diaz, Tommy Hunter, Derek Norris, Mallex Smith, Jesus Sucre, Rickie Weeks

Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Chris

RHP Chris Archer said he will be comfortable throwing to newly signed C Derek Norris despite just a few conversations and three exhibition innings. "We've been talking a lot over the four-five days he's been here," Archer said. "(Pitching coach Jim) Hickey and our front office do a great job of helping us game-plan to begin with. I've thrown to him enough now, roughly 40-50 pitches last game. He knows my stuff, he knows what I'm capable of, he saw me whenever I was good. So sticking to the game plan that they give us as well as pitching to my strength and trusting him, I think we'll be okay."

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Quote of the day

"He wouldn't miss this — he'd have to have a broken something."

Rays manager Kevin Cash, on 3B Evan Longoria being over a stiff neck and in the opening day lineup.

Rays tales

. Rookie RHP Austin Pruitt switched to No. 50 and rookie INF Daniel Robertson to No. 29.

. TV coverage on Fox Sports Sun begins at 11:30 a.m.

. The Rays are opening at home for the eighth straight year; the only longer current streak is in tradition-laced Cincinnati, where it's 27 in a row.