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Week before opener, Rays have several roster questions

Rays pitcher Matt Andriese, who is scheduled to start today against the Orioles, is having an impressive spring and has made himself the top candidate for the fourth spot in a rotation that will be missing three pitchers at the start of the season.
Rays pitcher Matt Andriese, who is scheduled to start today against the Orioles, is having an impressive spring and has made himself the top candidate for the fourth spot in a rotation that will be missing three pitchers at the start of the season.
Published Mar. 30, 2015

FORT MYERS — Opening day is a week from today, and filling out the starting rotation is among the topics the Rays have to address as they have about a half-dozen spots overall to settle.

With three of their projected five starters (Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Alex Colome) sidelined by injury and illness, the Rays are looking at internal and at least a few external options to join Chris Archer, Nathan Karns and Jake Odorizzi.

Matt Andriese, who starts today against the Orioles, is the leading in-house candidate for the fourth spot in the rotation, with Mike Montgomery, Burch Smith (who can be brought back from minor-league camp) and nonroster invitee Everett Teaford the others. They don't need a fifth starter until April 14.

But the team is also looking outside, and this is the week veterans who aren't going to make other teams are cut loose. Among possibilities the Rays appear to be considering are Wandy Rodriguez (who is in camp with the Braves); Bruce Chen and Shawn Marcum (Indians); and Clayton Richard (Pirates).

Also unsettled: the backup catcher job (between Curt Casali and Bobby Wilson), the final two-three spots in the bullpen (with length a priority, and nonroster invitee Brandon Gomes making a strong pitch), and backup infielders (possibly just one, with Tim Beckham most likely).

"It should be interesting," manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. "There's going to be a lot of discussion this week. I guess that goes on in any camp that last week, but it seems with some of the hiccups we've had it's going to be even that much more."

The decision between Casali and Wilson, who is on a minor-league deal, might turn out to be the most difficult, based on a combination of defensive skills, offensive potential and roster flexibility.

"All the above," Cash said. "I think both of the guys have had good camps. They've showed things they needed to show. And we kind of anticipated that would happen. … Both have been outstanding in getting their work in putting their best foot forward."

Casali, who made his big-league debut last July, is the better hitter, while Wilson came in with more experience and a reputation as a strong defensive player.

But Cash said Casali has been on point behind the plate. "Both of them are," he said. "There hasn't been a lot of separation there because they've both played so well."'

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.