Marc Topkin's column yesterday may have provided a clue as to how the final roster might shape up. It seems Joe Maddon would like to get Willy Aybar some more at-bats but would like to see his defense improve. Typical Spring Training talk so far, right? More importantly Maddon said Aybar will no longer be used as a second baseman. He wants to use Aybar exclusively backing up the corners and as a designated hitter, going so far as to tagging him a "professional hitter."
This is seemingly good news for Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac and maybe even the out-of-options Elliot Johnson who would be battling for the role of primary reserve middle infielder. If Aybar is not even taking reps at second, one of the three will be needed. Brignac easily provides the best defense of the three, and as a left-handed hitter will enjoy the most frequent favorable matchups. The inclusion of Rodriguez would provide the lineup with additional pop against left-handed pitching and could allow for the most optimal platoon lineups. The switch-hitting Ben Zobrist could swing between second base and right field while Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce could platoon on opposing-pitcher handedness. If the Rays are content to ride their top 24 with a Joe Dilllon-esque sacrificial lamb occupying the roster spot for the occasional day off for the middle infield, Johnson would be an ideal candidate for the sake of resource utilization. This would come at the expense of limiting Maddon's options, but would allow Rodriguez and Brignac to play daily.
One last note on Aybar: Per Roger Mooney of the Trib, Aybar is sporting a "burr cut atop his scalp." Can someone enlighten me as to what a "burr cut" is?
If Willy Aybar will not play second base, who would you like to see as the 25th man?
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