Spring training is now close enough that you can say "next week," and while the Rays are just about set to convene in Port Charlotte, there are some interesting topics of conversation. Among them:
1) What will the roster look like?
Contracts for RHP Kyle Farnsworth, INF Kelly Johnson and DH Luke Scott are set to be finalized early this week, which should just about complete their additions, though another vet or two could be signed to minor-league deals. There still seems to be a need for a right-handed hitting DH/1B/OF, though with limited options (Carlos Lee? Russ Canzler?), a late-spring acquisition could be more likely.
Three players still have to be taken off the 40-man roster. INF Reid Brignac, who is out of options and unlikely to make the team, could be a casualty, either via trade (there was some chatter last week) or waivers, or Elliot Johnson. Others who could be designated for assignment include a spare catcher, potentially Stephen Vogt, and a pitcher, maybe reliever Dane De La Rosa or one of the younger arms.
2) What's going on with closer Fernando Rodney?
Rodney apparently really wants a contract extension.
Because even after the Rays responded to a Dominican newspaper report quoting Rodney that a deal was pending by saying there had been no talks, and after Rodney's agent agreed and blamed it on a "misunderstanding" with the reporter, Rodney brought it up again Friday.
Talking in Spanish with mlb.com's Alden Gonzalez at the Caribbean Series in Mexico, Rodney said: "It's in plans already. We've talked a few times, and I expect it to get finalized this month."
It's natural for Rodney to want to cash in on his dazzling 2012 season after making just $1.75 million, and with only a $2.5 million option for this year. But the Rays typically don't do deals that way. And if he doesn't get a new one, you have to wonder if it will be an ongoing issue, and potential distraction.
3) How will 3B Evan Longoria be?
More than any acquisition, Longoria is the key to 2013 success. He has a new $100 million contract extension and a baby on the way, but the focus will be on his left hamstring, which forced him to miss more than half of last season. Longoria said last week he has recovered extremely well from November surgery and will be in Port Charlotte when pitchers and catchers report Feb. 12.
"The leg is ready," he said.
Still, expect the Rays to take it slow and hold him out of early spring action.
Meanwhile, he and girlfriend Jaime Edmondson announced on Twitter that the baby, due just before opening day, will be a girl. Also, Longoria is involved in a "boutique sports bar" venture called Ducky's planned for Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa.
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RAYS RUMBLINGS: Stephanie Katz, a 22-year-old from Lakeland, is the lone Rays rep among 50 finalists for a spot in MLB's Fan Cave; video and voting at mlbfancave.com. … OF Wil Myers is fourth in mlb.com's 100 prospect rankings, RHPs Taylor Guerrieri 44, Jake Odorizzi 45 and Chris Archer 46, and SS Hak-Ju Lee 56. … Former Ray Toby Hall hosts his annual golf tournament Friday benefiting the Miracle League at the Bayou Club. … OF Sam Fuld wraps up his second Diabetes Sports Camp for kids today at USF. … RHP Jeff Niemann recently changed agents, leaving the Hendricks brothers for Casey Close. … OF Matt Joyce raised $13,000 for the North Brandon Little League with his clinic. … TV pre-/postgame analyst Orestes Destrade heads to a U.S. Army base in Germany this week with a group of current and ex-players for a Fox Sports-sponsored "bring spring training to the troops" goodwill tour. … It's not clear if Sun Sports will replace home-game TV reporter Laura McKeeman, who is leaving for a national gig with Fox. … The "Countdown to Opening Day" radio show, featuring Andy Freed and Dave Wills, debuts at 7 p.m. Thursday on 620-AM. … Ben Zobrist is speaking, and better-half Julianna singing, at three upcoming church events: Feb. 13 at Northeast Presbyterian and Feb. 21 at First United Methodist in St. Petersburg, Feb. 17 at First Baptist in Tampa.