As a non-roster invitee in a major league camp, virtually nothing is a given. Essentially camp bodies to fill out the lineup and finish the game once the major league players have completed their scheduled appearances, they can be cut or reassigned at any time, with very little guaranteed.
Yet, not every team regards their non-roster invitees as nothing more than filler. Likewise, not every non-roster invitee is the same. Occasionally, some of these players wind up playing a significant part for the team they are in camp with. In the case of the Tampa Bay Rays during the Joe Maddon era, eight of these players have made the Opening Day roster. As noted by Bill Chastain, Jason Childers, Ruddy Lugo, Luis Ordaz, Gary Glover, Alberto Reyes, Eric Hinske, Juan Cruz, and most notably Carlos Pena were all non-roster players that broke camp with the Rays.
Of the players presently in the Rays major league camp, which would appear to have the best chance at making the Opening Day roster? There may be a couple of keys to consider in determining those who have the best chance – positions of need and performance. Since the Rays are searching for another arm in the bullpen and a corner outfield/backup first base type, those players may have an advantage.
For arms in the bullpen, Jamey Wright may warrant a significant look. Wright, who had been discussed previously, has been in this situation before. In fact, he has been a non-roster invitee in each of the past six seasons, and broke camp with the big league club each time. Thus far, the veteran reliever has gone 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in his five innings of work, but has allowed only five hits and has struck out three batters. Should he keep limiting baserunners and generating ground balls, he could have a chance at filling out the bullpen.
On the offensive side, an obvious choice would be Wil Myers, who has a .276/.333/.414 batting line thus far. However, it is a virtual certainty that he will be starting the season in Durham to delay his arbitration clock. With that being the case, Shelley Duncan could end up being that player. Duncan has a bit of power, hitting exactly eleven home runs in each of the last three seasons, and has been somewhat capable in the field. He has, however, struggled this spring, hitting at a .179/.233/.429 rate. On the positive side, Duncan has hit two home runs in his 28 at bats. On a team that could use a power bat off the bench, he may get a chance to fill that role.
While it is highly unlikely that any of the non-roster players in camp provide the same type of performance that Carlos Pena did as a non-roster invitee in 2007 when he finished ninth in the MVP voting, there was not a lot expected of Pena that season either. Perhaps one of these players ends up playing a significant part in the Rays 2013 season.