ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Kevin Cash said the final decisions in setting the Rays’ 30-man opening day roster were difficult.
But they seemed somewhat clear and, even more so in this odd season, subject to revision.
After seeing enough in Thursday’s workout to determine that pitchers Yonny Chirinos and first baseman/designated hitter Jose Martinez were ready despite not joining Spring 2.0 until last weekend after bouts with COVID-19, the Rays submitted a roster with 16 pitchers and 14 position players.
With 28-year-old rookie side-armer Ryan Thompson included among the pitchers, the Rays dropped Anthony Banda, the lefty who returned last year from Tommy John surgery.
And with 13 of the position player spots set, they chose Mike Brosseau, who has more defensive versatility and offensive pop, over Daniel Robertson, as well as Nate Lowe and Brian O’Grady.
With no minor league teams to join, players not chosen for the 30-man roster are assigned or optioned to the alternative training site, which for the Rays is their spring complex in Port Charlotte. Cash said they expect all to be back at some point this season.
Also technically sent south were two players who have been missing from workouts — outfielder Randy Arozarena and pitcher Brendan McKay.
Arozarena was placed on the minor-league injured list, having tested positive during July 1 intake screening for COVID-19, which the team can only acknowledge with the player’s permission. He is the fifth Ray known to do so, joining Chirinos, Martinez and pitcher Tyler Glasnow, plus outfielder Austin Meadows, who remains on the injured list. (Putting Arozarena on the list for COVID-19 reasons opened the spot on the 40-man roster to add Thompson.)
Cash said Arozarena was doing well and “in good spirits” but that it’s “been a challenge,” as he is new to the team and the area and doesn’t speak English.
As for McKay, who was last seen on the field July 6, Cash said: “Not much to report. Obviously he’s been absent and that’s as far as I’ll go with that.”
Thompson “almost catatonic” over news
To say Thompson was surprised and excited to make the majors for the first time would be unfair given how he really felt when getting a FaceTime call from Cash and general manager Erik Neander on Wednesday during a workout break in Port Charlotte:
“To be honest, I felt like I was almost in a catatonic state. I didn’t know how to respond. As a minor-leaguer you always envision what that moment is going to be like. You always imagine falling to your knees in tears. At that time, I just had so many emotions I kind of just sat there and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is happening.' It was a bizarre moment for me. You visualize it. You imagine it constantly. And when it happens it’s one of those things where you never truly expect it no matter how much pride, or no matter how much you believe in yourself, you never truly expect that moment to happen. And when it did, it was a beautiful moment, it was something I’ll never forgot.”
The news was also a big deal to Thompson’s father, Edwin, back in Oregon.
“It’s just as much his dream as it is mine. My dad is like freaking out right now. He’s on a plane right now to come out just because he wants to be in the same city. I told him we can’t see each other (because of coronavirus precautions). He’s like, ‘I don’t care, I just want to feel like I’m there.’ So I respect that.”
Chirinos gets in good work
Chirinos impressed and encouraged his bosses, working four mostly sharp “innings” of a sim game, throwing 62 pitches to Martinez, Brosseau and Kevin Kiermaier. “It was very much a work day for him,” Cash said. “Wasn’t up there with the intent to strike everybody out. It was basically with the intention to command his pitches.‘' The Rays plan to use Chirinos as a starter, potentially in Tuesday’s fifth game of the season. But Cash indicated they weren’t sure yet if Blake Snell would be ready to start Sunday, which could create a situation where Chirinos is used then in some role. Charlie Morton is set to start Friday’s opener with Ryan Yarbrough on Saturday and Glasnow “most likely” on Monday.
Number of the day
134 days, 2 hours, 6 minutes
Time from end of the Rays’ last spring game March 12 to Friday’s first pitch.
The letters BLM will be stenciled on the back of the Trop mound along with a reversed MLB logo that has the batter in black as part of league-wide support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Players can also wear batting practice T-shirts and uniform patches that say either Black Lives Matter or United For Change. ... Some Rays players may kneel or otherwise show support during the anthems. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg will miss a home opener for the first time in his 15-year tenure. … The team is selling a commemorative opening day ticket for $3 with proceeds to charity; see raysbaseball.com/auctions. … Plastic cardboard photos of fans won’t be in place until Aug. 4.
Staff writer Kyle Wood contributed to this report.