The team released catcher Rene Rivera and RHP reliever David Carpenter Wednesday afternoon, and optioned RHP Matt Andriese and INF Richie Shaffer to Triple-A Durham. Dan Johnson was also released from Minor League camp, and likely with it his bourgeoning career as a knuckleballer. Still, the Rays weren’t done with their roster shuffle. James Loney was also told that he will not break camp with the team, rather he will either be traded or released.
Rivera was owed $1.7-Million under his arbitration contract, and Tampa Bay remains on the hook for around a quarter of that (45 days termination pay) if he’s not claimed off waivers by another team. The Rays have instead chosen to go with the tandem of Curt Casali and Hank Conger behind the dish.
Rays manager Kevin Cash was impressed by Conger’s pitch-framing, receiving work and improvement in throwing.
The pitchers love throwing to Hank. They’ve all raved about the way he receives the ball. And he’s gotten to know our pitchers really well.
The Rays feel confident in his ability to throw out runners, despite a historically horrid 2015 campaign when Conger gunned down just one runner in 43 chances. To his credit, he has made adjustments to his technique.
It’s something I’m sure he’ll continue to work on, Cash said. Our pitchers, they pride themselves on giving the catchers a chance to throw.
That Casali cracked the Opening Day roster isn’t shocking to anyone. Still, Rivera was still taken aback by his release instead of the decision to option Conger to Durham.
I’m a little surprised, Rivera said. I was having a good spring. I thought I might change their mind. But it’s part of the business. … It’s all good.
Rivera ― who posted abysmal numbers in 2015 ― had indeed shown improvement in his offense this Spring, accompanying his elite ability to throw out runners. However, it wasn’t enough with Cash conceding that he just wasn’t the best fit moving forward.
Rene was with us all (last) year, and to his credit he came in and did some good things in spring training. We just didn’t see it as the best fit on the club going forward.
Casali and Conger are expected to split time evenly, based mainly on offensive matchups.
The right-handed Carpenter was competing for a spot in the Rays bullpen after being picked up off waivers from the Atlanta Braves.
As for Loney, according to Roger Mooney (Tampa Tribune) the first-baseman figured he’d been traded Wednesday after being pulled from a game against the visiting Red Sox following his second at-bat. That, however, wasn’t the case. Loney was told instead that he will not make the Opening Day roster. His short-term future is uncertain until possibly Saturday, when Cash and the front office are expected to set their roster.
I would think they’re probably trying to trade me, Loney said. We’ll see. We’ll see how that goes.
His assumptions are not unfounded. It has been a poorly kept secret that the Rays have wanted to deal the first baseman since the end of the 2015 season, but Loney’s lack of power and his $8-Million contract made him unattractive to other ball-clubs.
The team has been (and is still) willing to pay some of his salary if they can find a trade partner. Otherwise, the Rays will be forced to eat the balance of Loney’s contract.
Loney allowed that he’d like have been able to win with the team, while likewise acknowledging the team’s desire to improve the offense with the additions of Steve Pearce, Logan Morrison, and Corey Dickerson.
I’m not disappointed with those things, Loney said. Obviously, I felt like I’d like to win with these guys, but at the end of the day it is a business. Those aren’t my decisions. I have nothing to do with that. …I think it’s going to work out for the best for me. The team is great, obviously. I wish them the best. These guys were great. I loved my time here, love the organization after they gave me a chance after 2012. But at the end of the day, you want to play in the big leagues. You want to win, obviously. So we’ll see how it goes.
Impact on the roster
It’s been 24-hours since I speculated on the Rays Opening Day roster, following the temporary move of Ramirez to the ‘pen. Yeesh…was I ever wrong?! That’s why it’s called speculation, I’d reckon.
Nevertheless Cash is still deciding on a five-man bench vs. an eight-man bullpen, which could mean that OF Mikie Mahtook is in consideration to make the 25-man roster. To put things into perspective, the final roster decision is between four players ― RHP Andrew Bellatti, RHP Danny Farquhar, LHP Dana Eveland and Mahtook ― for the last two spots.
An interesting caveat, the left-handed Eveland has an opt-out clause in his contract for Friday, which could complicate Cash’s decision making. He has been effective in Spring Training, fanning eight and walking three in 10-2/3 innings while allowing three runs (none earned). Fun fact: Eveland walks to the mound to Megadeath’s “Symphony of Destruction.” How much that will play into the decision is unknown at the moment.
There is one certainty; we’ll have clarity by the weekend when Tampa Bay has to submit its 25-man roster ahead of the first game of the season.