The Rays’ roster for the tiebreaker game and the AL Wild Card could not have been more perfect. Two games, two relatively easy victories, and now the Rays are in the American League Division Series. Can the Rays find the magic formula once again? Let’s begin to find out as we look at the players we will see on the Rays’ ALDS roster.
Price and Cobb could not have been better in their two starts, but the one pity is that they won’t be able to go in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS because they already pitched. Instead, Moore is slated to start, Price will follow up in Game 2, Cobb will pitch Game 3 and Archer will follow in Game 4. Joe Maddon could choose to go back to Moore or Price if needed in Game 5, but he will undoubtedly tap his ace for that start, with Moore presenting an option if anything goes wrong. This may not be the Rays’ ideal rotation for a playoff series, but they have starting pitchers with the ability to dominate anytime out and appear to have an edge over the Red Sox in terms of the strength of their staff.
The Rays will likely go with 11 pitchers total on the roster. I think that Joe Maddon will keep a normal seven man bullpen. Since the Rays will only need four starters, Maddon will take the extra roster spot and give it to a position player. The first five relief pitchers listed are set in stone. All five have been solid contributors in the Rays bullpen throughout the year. The next two are a bit of a toss up. I chose Wesley Wright because he has pitched very well and provides another left handed reliever. Maddon often plays the matchup late in games, and having multiple lefties in the pen makes it easier for him to do this. Wright was also included on the Wild Card roster, making me believe that he will stick on the roster.
There is a chance Maddon could go with someone like Jeremy Hellickson, Roberto Hernandez, or Jake Odorizzi for the last bullpen spot over Gomes, but I believe Gomes will take the spot. Hernandez was not often used out of the pen down the stretch after losing his rotation spot. Hellickson has also been way too inconsistent this year to be trusted. Gomes also provides a fresher arm. After being hurt a decent part of the season, this could actually be an advantage for the Rays, as Gomes will not have the arm fatigue that comes with pitching a whole season. Thus Maddon will likely go with Gomes. Odorizzi, meanwhile, needs to stay in reserve as an emergency starting pitcher if someone gets hurt–you have to think he would get the nod given how much Hellickson and Hernandez have struggled.
Lobaton and Molina are givens, they have both been on the roster the entire year, and that will not change. Both of these players will receive starts in this series, with Molina providing significant value with his glove as normal and Lobaton providing value with his bat and his glove. Chris Gimenez could be a third catcher, but the Rasy have Sean Rodriguez for that emergency catcher role and would be better else using the extra spot somewhere else.
There are no big decisions to make when choosing infielders. All six of the listed players have been on the Rays’ roster the entire year. Kelly Johnson and Sean Rodriguez both provide solid bench options. Rodriguez and Johnson both could also see some time in the outfield, with Rodriguez likely getting the start in left field against left-handed pitchers.
This is a good mix of outfield talent for the Rays. All players could receive outfield starts in the series, except Sam Fuld, who will likely just serve as a defensive replacement off of the bench. Even with Desmond Jennings still on the mend from a hamstring injury, at a time like this the Rays choose to go with their best talent and not worry about nagging injuries.
Designated Hitter- Delmon Young
Young has been hot as of late, and thus will serve as the DH the entire series. After being brought in as someone who would play DH against left-handers, Young wins the roster spot over Luke Scott after his recent hot streak. Young hit a home run in the wild card game and look for him to continue his hot run during the ALDS.
Notable Names Left Off- Luke Scott, Chris Gimenez, Kevin Kiermaier, Jeremy Hellickson, Roberto Hernandez, Jake Odorizzi
Luke Scott lost his position as the Rays DH due to Delmon Young’s strong stretch and his injury in the later part of the season. Without Young, Scott would be serving as the Rays main DH during the ALDS. Gimenez would make a nice addition to the Rays’ roster, but with only 25 spots there is no more room for him. Rays fans are rooting for Kiermaier to make this roster as a feel-good story, but once again there is only a certain amount of room on a roster. The Rays already have their late-innings defensive replacement in Fuld, so Kiermaier does not make the cut unless the Rays are so worried about Desmond Jennings that they feel that they have to have an additional defensive replacement for him in addition to the likely pinch-runner Fuld. Both Hellickson and Hernandez could see time in the bullpen, but Joe Maddon will likely turn elsewhere due to their inconsistency throughout the season. Then there’s Odorizzi, who may profile as the most important pitcher not on the roster and the most likely addition should any pitcher on the roster get injured. Odorizzi looked very good as both a starter and reliever at the end of the year, and we will have to see if his abilities will come into play once again.
The Rays have put together some nice pieces for their playoff run. The Rays honestly have 30 or more players that could have a significant reason to be included on the playoff roster, and the decision will be tough. Let’s hope that no matter which direction the Rays go, it will pay off with a big series win over the Red Sox.