We've done this a couple times already here (most recently here), but something changed last night: Andrew Friedman went on the air during the game and said the Rays were likely to use 10 or 11 pitchers on their postseason roster. All of our best guesses - both here and at The Process Report - have centered around the team using 12 pitchers on their roster, allowing them to carry a large contingent in the bullpen. Apparently, though, the Rays feel confident in the top men in their bullpen - and well they should - and would prefer to have more depth off their bench.
If the Rays go with 10 pitchers, I would imagine the breakdown would look something like this:
- Our five starters, with one moving to the bullpen for long relief.
- Rafael Soriano
- Joaquin Benoit
- Grant Balfour
- Dan Wheeler
- Randy Choate
There's a possibility Chad Qualls gets on the roster instead of Dan Wheeler, but Qualls has been hit or miss with the Rays and I wouldn't be surprised to see him left off. If the Rays decide to take 11 pitchers, though, he'd be on the short-list of candidates to get added, along with Jake McGee.
How would this impact our bench? The Rays would be able to carry more players, so who will they be likely to take?
Here's my best guess at the position players the Rays will take:
Those are all no-brainer choices, but that's only 13 players. If the Rays were going to carry an extra one or two players beyond this, who would they take?
As I see it, the decision comes down to four players: Willy Aybar, Desmond Jennings, Rocco Baldelli, and Dioner Navarro. Considering that Aybar has seen a good amount of playing time this season, I would imagine he gets onto the roster. Even with Brad Hawpe and Dan Johnson taking over most of the appearances at DH, Aybar still has his uses and would be a valuable switch-hitter off the bench if nothing else.
If the Rays want a pinch-runner, like they had in 2008 with Fernando Perez, Desmond Jennings would be the man to choose. He already showed off his blinding speed by turning a double into a triple in a game recently, and Maddon has used him off the bench already as a pinch-runner. He'd be great off the bench, but he would have very limited use - would the Rays use a valuable roster spot strictly on a pinch-runner?
As much as I love Rocco - and as much as Navarro's defense gets praised - I don't see either sniffing the playoff roster. There's too much outfield talent and depth for Rocco, and why would the Rays bother carrying three catchers? Sorry guys, but thanks for the ride.
To borrow a phrase, if I had my druthers, the Rays would take Desmond Jennings on the postseason roster and carry 11 pitchers, allowing Jake McGee to get added to the bullpen. I love Willy, but I feel like with the crazy offensive depth the Rays already have on the bench, his uses are limited and redundant. Jennings would be a more valuable addition, even if he's not as major-league tested. Will this happen? The Rays like to wait until the last possible minute to make their decisions, so only time will tell.