ST. PETERSBURG — What the Rays team will look like if they start the season in June or July likely won’t be the same as the 28-man squad they set before rosters were frozen Friday.
For one, we don’t know now many players they’ll be allowed to carry, but there’s a good chance it could be 29 or 30 at least for the first few weeks of play, maybe longer depending on the number of doubleheaders that get built into the schedule.
But in optioning seven players to the minors on Thursday, the Rays showed the depth of their 40-man roster.
And a key element in their team-building approach, as they acknowledge they can’t always match up with other teams’ top-10 players but make it a priority to have the best 11-30 group.
All seven played in the majors last season: Infielders Mike Brosseau and Nate Lowe and pitchers Anthony Banda, Brendan McKay and Trevor Richards for the Rays; outfielders Randy Arozarena for the Cardinals, Brian O’Grady for the Reds.
And, manager Kevin Cash said, they certainly are expected to again this season.
“I think every one of these guys that were optioned (Thursday) could certainly impact us at any given point in the season," he said. “Whether that’s opening day, whether that’s 15 days in, that’s to be determined."
Arozarena was arguably the most impressive player in camp, going 8-for-20 with nine walks and two strikeouts. “Arozarena’s athleticism really stood out and obviously the walk-to-strikeout ratio that he created in such a little amount of time," Cash said. O’Grady also impressed with his versatility.
Plus, the Rays had more depth among non-roster invitees, veteran lefty reliever Aaron Loup making a strong push for a spot in the bullpen, catchers Chris Herrmann and Kevan Smith still competing with Michael Perez for the backup job.
So what did we learn with the moves they made?
Pete Fairbanks, Andrew Kittredge, Jalen Beeks and Loup seemed to be competing for the final two spots on a 13-man pitching staff, assuming Jose Alvarado was deemed ready. From the position side, they seemed pretty much set, with Daniel Robertson probably needing the team to opt for a 14th position player to make it.
A delivery to follow
Pirates players came up with a great idea that the Rays and other teams should copy, buying 400 pizzas from two Pittsburgh shops (helping area businesses) and having them delivered to a local hospital (feeding and rewarding the staff).
“We know local businesses are getting crushed and they’re really hurting and they’re really affected by what’s going on," player rep Jameson Taillon told mlb.com’s Adam Berry. “Then obviously, the hospitals and the staff working on the front lines there, they’re putting in extra hours, extra work, exposing themselves."
Rays officials did lend a hand, partnering with concessionaire Levy to donate 20 pallets of food and beverage (valued at $175,000) from the Trop, Charlotte Sports Park and Al Lang Stadium to Metropolitan Ministries, and providing Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay with a $2,000 gift.
While the Rays got a potentially helpful piece in infielder Esteban Quiroz as the player to be named from the Padres, they pretty much called it even with the Reds. Instead of minor-leaguers going both ways in deals for Brian O’Grady (to Rays) and Jose De Leon (to Reds) they agreed to settled for cash considerations. … There are still about 16 minor-leaguers in Port Charlotte: 10 from Venezuela who couldn’t return home and spend their days at the team hotel doing virtual classes and workout routines, and six others rehabbing injuries who go to the complex at staggered times for treatment but no workouts. … Through Friday, the Rays have had no one in the organization test positive for the coronavirus. … If the season does start in June or July, the Rays wisely will likely base out of the Trop rather than Port Charlotte for the expected three or so weeks of a second “spring” training, leaving other teams to deal with the heat and rain. … Not sure what we would more intriguing if New York were to be still dealing with coronavirus issues and other sites were clear — the Yankees playing “home” games at the Trop or at Steinbrenner Field, which perhaps could add some temporary seating. ... In adding a 2019 American League wild-card banner above leftfield at the Trop, the Rays will change the order so the six they now have hang chronologically from left to right. They had been the other way, which had their most prized, the 2008 AL champions pennant, more centered. … Per reports from Japan, Yoshi Tsutsugo’s former DeNA BayStars team agreed to let him work out at their minor-league facility now that he has returned home during the delay. … A mask-wearing Ji-Man Choi posted on Instagram that he made it safely back to South Korea, it “feels weird” to be home this time of year and he “can’t wait to go back to the states and play ball but until then we all need to stay healthy." … The Rays were fourth overall in ESPN.com’s “would have been opening day” power rankings, behind the Yankees, Astros and top-ranked Dodgers. … Oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook weren’t as impressed, tabbing the Rays 25-1 to win the World Series, longer shots than the Yankees, Astros, White Sox, Twins, Angels and A’s. … The Rays “lost” 4-1 to the Pirates in Thursday’s Strat-O-Matic simulation. Charlie Morton gave up two runs over six innings and Diego Castillo two more in the ninth while Mike Zunino homered. If anything, blame the guy who made the lineup (me). … Reliever Nick Anderson was third on Richard Justice’s mlb.com list of nine players who should be household names, with a comp to Milwaukee’s Josh Hader.
Here is what the 28-man “active” roster looks like as of now: