Through the season, the Rays ran a regular shuttle to Triple-A Durham, adding and dropping relievers on an often-daily basis, allowing them to keep fresh arms in the bullpen. Now as they head into the playoffs, they will no longer have such luxury.
Basically, the Rays need to reduce their roster for the ALDS for 26, with as many as 33 players to choose from.
Tampa Bay Rays playoff pitching choices are difficult
Pitching presents the most vexing area of deliberation. The ALDS is a five-game series, with the Rays having an off day after Game 2.
Six starter possibilities include Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Michael Wacha, Shane Baz, Luis Patino, and Ryan Yarbrough. Rasmussen and Yarbrough throw from the left side; the others are right-handers.
Wacha and Yarbrough have both hit rough patches recently, after having success earlier in the season. Both showed a return to good form in their last appearances.
Luis Patino has shown flashes of brilliance during his 15 starts but he has also faltered, although he looked very good in his last appearance, throwing two scoreless innings in relief.
Shane Baz has set tongues wagging throughout the baseball world in his two starts and may emerge as his year’s Shane McClanahan, i.e., shining like a “star” rookie in the post-season.
After dealing with the starting pitching, the Rays then have to pare down the bullpen, where they have 12 viable candidates.
Andrew Kittredge, Pete Fairbanks, Colin McHugh seem like locks. David Robertson is a question mark, having had a mixture of results over the last month. JT Chargois and JP Feyereisen have had good seasons, as have Louis Head and Ryan Wisler. All of the aforementioned are right-handers.
There are four southpaws vying for a post-season spot. Adam Conley is on the COVID-19 inactive list, and returns the day the ALDS begins, so that may knock him out of contention. Josh Fleming, Ryan Sheriff, and Dietrich Enns are also vying for spots.
Rays position player choices for playoff roster aren’t easy either
The infield and outfield are both crowded with more qualified contenders than spots. Wander Franco and Taylor Walls are switch hitters. Also eligible are Ji-man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Joey Wendle, and Nelson Cruz.
Several players may benefit from their versatility, allowing them to play different positions.
There are six competitors for the three outfield positions, evenly split with three right-handed hitters and three left-handed.
The righties are Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot, and Jordan Luplow. Swinging from the left side are Austin Meadows, Brett Phillips, and Kevin Kiermaier.
There are some tough choices to be made. In many instances , they seem interchangeable. But that is only because of their season-long success at being used at the right time at the right spot.
The Rays’ tremendous season-long success is a monument to the team having the proper ability to make the proper decision at the time.
Heading into the playoffs, it is hoped that such success continues. What has seemed a blessing all season may now seem to some as a curse. Having too many good players is a nice problem to have.