Earlier today, Joe Maddon raised some eyebrows by indicating that Hank Blalock now has a shot at making the opening day roster. With a decision on the final rotation spot expected tomorrow, and several key players still nursing injuries, let’s see what these decisions mean for the opening day roster projection…
Notes on the 25-man roster projection…
- SECOND BASE: Ben Zobrist has played almost exclusively at 2B this spring indicating that it might not be much of a platoon after all. Still, Reid Brignac’s spot on the roster seems safe, and we would expect him to get ~2 starts per week versus righties.
- RIGHT FIELD: Matt Joyce won’t be able to play in the field until next week. His job wasn’t safe before the injury, so the lack of playing time doesn’t help. He will either be on the DL or back in Durham playing catch-up. So if Ben Zobrist is at 2B most days, that leaves Gabe Kapler and/or Sean Rodriguez. We think Rodzilla has impressed enough this spring to get most of the RF starts to start the season.
- BENCH: If healthy, Willy Aybar gets one spot. Another goes to Dioner Navarro if healthy, but we suspect the Rays will be very patient with his recovery. That opens the door for Alvin Colina who has a little big league experience and much more AAA experience than the other options. Reid Brignac seems safe to us as the backup middle infielder, and should get plenty of ABs during the season. That leaves one spot for Gabe Kapler or Hank Blalock. So what is more valuable? A Pat Burrell/Blalock DH-platoon with Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist in RF or Burrell at DH with Rodriguez and Kapler in RF? We’ll take the former.
- ROTATION: With JP Howell on the DL, Andy Sonnanstine will likely head to the bullpen, giving the 5th spot to Wade Davis by default. The interesting question is what happens when Howell returns and Davis is only pitching so-so.
- BULLPEN: With JP Howell, there are 2 spots up for grabs. One seems destined to be Andy Sonnanstine’s. The other will go to Joaquin Benoit if he can go back-to-back games. If not, Jeff Bennett would be the leading candidate, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the Rays went with Dale Thayer, Carlos Hernandez, Winston Abreu, Joe Bateman, Mike Ekstrom or Heath Phillips.