The Tampa Bay Rays open their spring schedule Saturday against the Twins in Fort Myers, and that is when the two biggest battles begin as the team looks for an everyday shortstop and a second catcher.
Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac will compete at shortstop while newcomer Chris Gimenez and incumbents Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos vie for the other half of the platoon with C Jose Molina.
"It's hard to divide that many catchers among the innings so we may include them in the DH part of the game as Luke Scott continues to warm up to this spring training," manager Joe Maddon said. "We might actually have some DH spots, because I want them to get at-bats. But the big part is seeing them behind the plate, that's really important, too. I don't even know if that might be more important."
Maddon said Molina could find himself catching minor league games in late March as a means of creating innings for the other catchers.
"We just have to stay on top of that to give people the opportunities we told them we would give them and then be fair in our evaluations," Maddon said.
Also factoring into the shortstop rotation are rookies Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham as well as utility infielders Jeff Keppinger and Will Rhymes.
The importance will be placed on innings for Rodriguez and Brignac, yet Maddon said he can't ignore the other four.
"The thought would be to alternate (Brignac and Rodriguez) on a daily basis, Reid, Sean, Reid, Sean, and back them up with Hak-Ju and Beckham and those kinds of guys," Maddon said. "We got to get Rhymes over there and Keppinger over there. That's where my biggest concern is to get those guys enough work and to get them ready as well as be seen and evaluated properly."
Moore shut down again
A mid-abdominal strain kept LHP Matt Moore off the mound for the second straight day and will likely keep him on the shelf for a few more days as the Rays remain cautious with their prized prospect.
"It's an over-conservative thing we're doing right now," Maddon said. "I am not concerned. I am not. Even if he doesn't throw (today) which he may, I'm not concerned. He's fine."
Moore said he still felt discomfort Tuesday morning in the area, which he injured Friday while throwing a bullpen session. He hopes to play catch today.
Moore said he is frustrated.
"But at the same time I'm happy my arm is healthy and my legs feel strong," he said. "There are no red flags. This is just a hiccup."
Maddon said it's far too early to be concerned about Moore being ready for the regular season.
"If it was a couple of week thing that could possibly push things back, but I don't see it, I really don't," Maddon said. "Based on what they're telling me I really believe in the next day or two he should be fine."
Patience with Scott
Maddon said DH Luke Scott, recovering from surgery tom repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, will not play in the first three to four games to give the shoulder additional time to heal.
"I just want him to gradually get into this," Maddon said. "The priority for a guy like him is that he's ready on (Opening Day) April 6, that's it. So you got to build into a guy like him and not be too quick."
LHP David Price said he is excited to start the Grapefruit League opener then added, "When is it?" … Maddon was impressed with the work of pitchers Jeff Niemann, Matt Bush, Marquis Fleming and Ryan Reid during the round of live BP. … 1B Carlos Peña, upon seeing the seven-foot spear Scott uses to hunt wild boar in Scott's locker: "I will never, ever do anything to get you mad at me."