After today's game, the final Friday game of spring training, the Rays will likely announce their opening day roster. Most of the spots were already set, but there are three positional battles worthy of a little bit more attention. The spots up for grabs are the backup catcher, a backup middle infielder, a back-of-the-rotation starter, and the two final spots in the bullpen.
The Backup Catcher
A battle between Curt Casali and local product Bobby Wilson.
The Rays acquired Casali during spring training last year and he'd make his major league debut later on in July. He played in 30 games, but struggled at the plate, and he suffered a concussion in September that ended his season. So far this spring, he has slashed .207/.250/.310 with one home run in 14 games.
The Rays signed Bobby Wilson back in December after releasing Jose Molina, so he could compete for the backup catcher spot. He has spent part of six seasons in the majors, the best of which came back in 2012 for the Angels. So far this spring, he has slashed .120/.214/.120 with three hits in 25 at bats (all singles). He is thought of as an excellent receiver and pitch framer.
The Backup Middle Infielder
A battle between Jake Elmore and Tim Beckham.
Tim Beckham finally made his much anticipated major league debut back in September, 2013. He was expected to compete for a starting job last spring, but he suffered a torn ACL during the winter that made him miss most of the season, as he only played in a combined 24 games in the minors. So far in 20 spring training games, he has slashed .260/.302/.340 with no home runs.
Jake Elmore was signed by the Rays a few weeks before spring training began, he has spent his career as a journeyman utility player. Unfortunately, he has struggled with the bat this spring, but has shown valuable versatility playing at numerous positions. So far this spring he has slashed .114/.289/.143 with four hits in 35 at bats.
The Fourth Spot in the Rotation
Injuries to starting rotation opened up plenty of opportunities for some players to reach the major league level. Nathan Karns came into camp hoping to win the last spot in the rotation, but bouts of tendinitis from both Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb opened the door for him to be named the second starter in the rotation, with Jake Odorizzi set to take the third start.
After the third game of the season, the Rays have an off day, so Chris Archer can make his second start of the season on the team's fifth game.
A few days ago, the Rays acquired Erasmo Ramirez for Mike Montgomery, and while it hasn't been officially announced, most expect that he'll fill the fourth spot in the rotation. He's spent the past three seasons with the Mariners and so far, in five spring training games, he's allowed 12 runs (nine earned) in 13 innings pitched.
There were many other competitors, but it seems the only remaining competition for the spot would Matt Andriese, who was acquired in the seven player deal last year the sent Alex Torres to San Diego. He has spent the past season and a half at Triple-A, and so far this spring he's allowed 10 runs (5 earned) in 19.1 innings pitched.
Both pitchers are expected to pitch on Saturday, so that may delay the announcement, according to Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Final Bullpen Spots
The Rays head into the season with Grant Balfour, Brad Boxberger, Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen, and Jeff Beliveau as their set bullpen pieces. That leaves only 2 spots left, in a battle between Kirby Yates, C.J. Riefenhauser, and Steve Geltz.
Kirby Yates was signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2009, and he finally forced his way onto the Rays roster after dominating in Durham last year. He pitched well enough during his time in the majors and so far this spring he's allowed three runs (all earned) in 11 innings pitched.
C.J. Riefenhauser is another unheralded prospect who, pitched in the 2013 Futures Game. After working his way though the system, he finally made his major league debut last April. Two rough outings overshadowed five scoreless ones, but now he has a chance at making the opening day roster. So far in 11 spring training games, he's allowed three runs (two earned) in 10 innings pitched. Riefenhauser throws from a low arm slot, and best profiles as a lefty-specialist
Steve Geltz was acquired by the Rays at the end of spring training in 2013 for Dane De La Rosa. He was solid in 11 games last year for Tampa Bay and so far this spring he's allowed three runs (two earned) in 10.1 IP this spring.
A four-way poll question is awkward, so go ahead and give your predictions for each race in the comments.
Following the Rays 11-5 victory over Detroit, Jake Elmore and Juan Francisco were reassigned, Curt Casali and C.J. Riefenhauser were optioned to Triple-A Durham.
So that means that Bobby Wilson, Kirby Yates, Steve Geltz, and Tim Beckham have won spots on the opening day roster.