Who Should Go?

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Evan Longoria played his first rehab game in Montgomery last night, led off and hit a homer in four at bats. If all goes well, he will be back with the Rays for their next series against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. Of course, when he rejoins the roster, another player will have to go. Who should that be?

Thanks to Ben Zobrist’s versatility, the Rays could send anyone down and slide players around without weakening their defense. Obviously, Zobrist, B.J. Upton, Johnny Damon and Matt Joyce are untouchable. Sam Fuld, who before this season was a player who shuttled back and forth between the majors and Triple A, has played too well to even consider dropping him from the roster. Besides, there would be a riot in the streets of St. Petersburg if Super Sam ever had to go down to Durham.

The catchers, Kelly Shoppach and John Jaso, have yet to hit much, but there isn’t a better option immediately available. They’ve split the catching duties right down the middle and while both are hitting under .200, Jaso has shown more power. Most alarming is Shoppach’s inability to make contact. In 44 at bats, he has struck out 18 times. But as long as the pitching staff stays as hot as it is (and continue to work well with the catching duo), I think the Rays can live without too much offense from their catchers.

Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez are both young players. The Rays believe they will be a part of the future, so sending either of these two down (just to provide roster space), doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Brignac has not been doing much damage out of the ninth slot in the order, hitting just .228/.279/.228 with no extra base hits, but I can’t see him being sent down. He should improve as the season goes on. Rodriguez has gotten hot lately and has banged out a team high three triples. He’s the team’s second best super utility man who can fill in at all of the infield spots.

Immediately after Longoria went on the disabled list, Felipe Lopez hit fourth and played third base. In recent games, though, Maddon has elected to play Rodriguez there instead as Lopez has not provided the production that the Rays need out of that slot in the order. Not that that is surprising. Lopez has always been a utility man with a touch of power throughout his career. Put him back on the bench where he can spell Longoria from time to time and hit the occasional homer. Elliot Johnson is an interesting case. He’s a backup middle infielder, presumably with the big club to provide some defense and come off the bench if Maddon decides to pinch-hit for Brignac. Longoria’s arrival wouldn’t really change his role.

Dan Johnson has been given the first base job and has done nothing to prove that he should keep it. He has had one big hit, his game-winning home run against the White Sox on April 8, which gave the Rays their first win. Incredibly, that’s his only home run and his only runs batted in. He’s hitting .143/.217/.206 from a position where the Rays really need some production. Casey Kotchman has matched the home run and RBI total in half the plate appearances and has clearly outplayed Johnson.

The choice in my mind is clear. Kotchman outhit Johnson during spring, but still lost the first base job. He’s come up and outhit Johnson again during the regular season. Send Johnson down. He’s always had great minor league numbers. Let him gain some confidence so can come up later this year and get some big hits for the Rays like he did in 2008 and 2010. Rodriguez and Kotchman are much better platoon solution (not necessarily at first base thanks to Zobrists’ versatility) and Lopez can continue to fill in when needed.

Who do you think should get sent down? Let me know in the comments.