Kevin Cash and the Tampa Bay Rays announced the next round of roster cuts Wednesday morning, prior to the 15-6 shellacking released upon the Baltimore Orioles. Counting Kevin Gadea and Nathan Eovaldi, both of whom are on the 60-day disabled list, 36 players remain in camp as of Wednesday evening.
Today’s #Rays moves.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) March 29, 2017
Tampa Bay optioned catchers Luke Maile and Curt Casali to Triple-A Durham along with pitcher Ryan Garton. Additionally four non-roster invites — C Mike McKenry, OF Shane Peterson, RHP Diego Moreno and LHP Justin Marks — were re-assigned to minor league camp.
The Rays went into the offseason seeking to improve the catching, and instead of going with a Maile/Casali tandem while Wilson Ramos mends from knee surgery, the ball club went outside the organization to improve their corps of backstops, choosing to start the season with Derek Norris and Jesus Sucre.
The decision was not easy for Cash, a former catcher himself, although it’s his opinion that Norris and Sucre give the team the best chance to win now.
Obviously, difficult decisions, Cash said. It’s come down to the wire. We’ve obviously had some unique situations come up with the Derek Norris signing; Jesus Sucre, he’s had a solid camp, there’s no doubt about it.
That’s not slighting what Curt and Luke did this camp. Both of them took to some of the organization’s thoughts and made themselves better, but we felt going right now, heading into opening day, that Derek and Jesus give us the best chance to win games.
Maile, who had a good spring overall, didn’t take the news well.
Obviously it hurts; all I can do is go down to AAA and try to prove them wrong.
The news meant a great deal to Sucre, who admitted to having a difficult time sleeping the past few days.
I’ve been waiting for this for several days now, and these last three days I couldn’t even sleep. I’m very excited about it to hear the news finally.
Of the 36 remaining players, seven are expected to start the season on the DL:
Additionally, Cory Rasmus has been shelved with a groin injury since the first home game of the Grapefruit League season, and he’s a non-roster selection. With all this in mind, there are 28 healthy players left in camp contending for 25 spots.
Before Sunday’s opener, the Rays have to pick two relievers from a group of four: Jumbo Diaz, Austin Pruitt, Jaime Schultz and Chase Whitley. They also have to fill three bench spots among another group of four: Nick Franklin, Daniel Robertson, Peter Bourjos and Mallex Smith.
Adding to the conundrum, the team will need to open up to four spots on the 40-man roster. And if that isn’t enough to give Cash palpitations, the possibility for further bench/bullpen upgrades remains as players are released around the league.
In no certain terms, the next 72 hours should be interesting for those battling it out as Spring Training turns into the regular season.
— Don’t get me wrong, I like Drew Smyly and I love what he did with the Rays. However, going into the 2016 trade deadline and later the offseason, I pounded a thought into dirt: the team needed to trade the southpaw before the other shoe dropped and he incurred another shoulder injury.
It appears the other shoe may have finally dropped, and just a few days before the start of the new season.
Can you imagine the mad scramble the Rays would be in if he were still on the roster? Perhaps there was some wisdom in Erik Neander’s decision to trade Smyly?
— Talk about making an impactful first impression, newcomer Peter Bourjos went 3-5 with a HR and 3 RBI in his Rays debut.
Peter Bourjos went 3-for-5 with a HR and 3 RBI in his Rays debut.
Hear more of what the speedy outfielder had to say this morning. pic.twitter.com/uUpXvbA0C9
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) March 30, 2017
Kevin Cash and Peter Bourjos discuss his spring debut and his home run
— I get it, as a leader of the Baseball Forever campaign, I have to toe the official line. However, it’s been my opinion all along that the best location for a new Rays’ stadium is, well…the old one. Why? It is easily accessible, there is plenty of land to build on and redevelop, the land does not have to be purchased, and the Rays currently hold the development rights through their use agreement. And while the Tampa Bay Times has beaten the drum for a new stadium in Hillsborough for as long as I can remember, it appears that even they might be coming around.
As Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium blog, WTSP) pointed out, Times’ columnist John Romano articulated some of the same things many of us (myself included) have thought all along:
For the Rays, this has always been a mathematics question. If they can boost their revenues $15 million a year in a downtown Tampa location, then they would invest a certain amount in construction. If a new stadium on the Trop site only boosts their revenues $5 million a year, then one might assume their investment would not be as high.
The difference at the Trop site is there is an abundance of property that does not have to be purchased, and the Rays currently hold the development rights through their stadium use agreement.
Those rights could go a long way toward deferring the team’s costs, and they would allow the Rays to be partners in whatever development goes up around the stadium.
This doesn’t mean a site in downtown Tampa won’t suddenly become available at a better asking price, but the odds seem a lot less likely than a week ago.
What’s now clear is that St. Pete is still a viable location, and that Hillsborough voices are less optimistic than in the past. All of which makes the Trop site seem a lot more attractive today.