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Why picking Rays roster may not be that hard after all

Rays Tales: With 23 spots seemingly set, only picking a backup catcher and filling out the bench and bullpen remain.
Mike Zunino, right, appears to be the primary catcher as the Rays' roster takes shape early in spring training.
Mike Zunino, right, appears to be the primary catcher as the Rays' roster takes shape early in spring training. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Feb. 16, 2020
Updated Feb. 16, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE – The Rays have much to sort out this spring, such as where newcomer Yoshi Tsutsugo plays, how all the outfielders will fit in, whether to make Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough fulltime starters and drop the opener.

But they may not have that many decisions on who makes their roster.

Under the proviso of no major injuries, the Rays begin full-squad workouts this week with 23 of their 26 roster spots pretty much set, at least for the opening day roster, which we know isn’t as important as it sounds and will change early and often.

Only the backup catcher job and two slots between the bullpen and the bench need to filled, creating the possibility that some familiar faces, such as Daniel Robertson, could be left out.

Here’s how it could come down:

However used, these five “starters” are on the team: Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, plus Chirinos and Yarbrough.

Assuming Jose Alvarado is as ready as he says to return, there are six bullpen spots set, with Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe joining him.

Mike Zunino will be the primary catcher, with Michael Perez (who is on the roster) battling with Kevan Smith and, possibly, Chris Herrmann (who are not). Being a lefty swinger helps Perez, having more big-league time and power boosts Smith.

The other 11 position players with jobs are infielders Willy Adames, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle; outfielders Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe and Yoshi Tsutsugo; and DH Jose Martinez.

And this is where it gets a little tricky.

One or two more relievers will be added from a group likely led by Andrew Kittredge, Pete Fairbanks and non-roster veteran Aaron Loup, plus, if they need length, Jalen Beeks and Trevor Richards. (Prospect Brendan McKay is likely headed to Triple-A to work regularly as a starter.)

Whether it’s one or two, and thus a 12- or 13-man staff, depends on how comfortable they’d be with Wendle as their only (non-first base) backup infielder. If Tsutsugo looks like he could handle some time at third, they may try it, meaning Robertson, Mike Brosseau, Nate Lowe all go back to the minors, and they can add the extra reliever. If not, Robertson, and his smooth glove, could be on the roster. They also could open the season with the extra infielder, then switch to the extra reliever when they begin a grueling stretch of 30 games in 31 days on April 3.

“The good thing about our roster if everyone’s healthy is we’ve got a lot of good options,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve got to let some things play out in spring. We’ve got to hope that we get really, really good health. But I think there will be a lot of conversations for good reason because we have a lot of talent. I think guys are going to push the envelope, push each other and push us as a group to make the best decisions for us to win a game that night.’’

Rays Tales

More than a few people have wondered given the collapse of the Mets’ most recent sale offer, but Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is not planning to pursue them. Nor is Rays investor Randy Frankel, who was involved with a group that expressed interest in 2011. … Opening day starter? Morton seems like the smart guess. … Meadows was No. 45, Morton 52, Snell 82 and Glasnow 92 on MLB Network’s ranking of the game’s top 100 players. …. Cool move by David Price to wear No. 33 with the Dodgers in a nod to former Rays teammate James Shields. … Louis Chao, the translator hired to work with Japanese free agent Tsutsugo is multitalented, having paired previously with Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. …. The Rays didn’t rate any Sunday night games, but get three early appearances on ESPN’s Monday night schedule: March 30, April 6 and 20. … Kiermaier plans to work with Meadows this spring on improving his defense. … Port Charlotte is suddenly developing, with plans for 2,400 homes (single- and multifamily) and 300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space called West Port near the Rays spring facility, and nearby a 160-acre commercial, recreational and entertainment district, with hotels and a water park, called Arredondo Pointe. Plus Allegiant airlines is building a Sunseeker Resort. … The Rays are hosting a Fan Day during Monday’s workout, including inflatable games, appearances by Raymond, face painting and other activities, starting at 10:30 a.m.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.