Opening Day Roster Speculation
Well, it’s that time of year again. About a week from now we at the Bulls will announce the Opening Day roster, as the squad aims to win its eighth division title in the past nine seasons, while Jared Sandberg, the youngest manager in the Triple-A ranks, takes over for Charlie Montoyo as manager. That much we know is certain. Past that, there’s not much certain about the Bulls’ 2015 Opening Day roster. So to do our best to have an informed fan base, we try to lay out who you might see take the field for the Bulls on Opening Day.
Tampa Bay’s rotation has been ravaged by injury and sickness this spring. First off, Matt Moore is still out coming off Tommy John surgery, and isn’t expected back for at least a few months. Then this spring Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly each dealt with bouts of tendinitis in their throwing arms, pushing them off track for Opening Day. To exacerbate the problem Alex Colome, who was due to compete for the Rays’ 5th starter position, missed the first two weeks of camp because of visa issues, then missed an additional week with pneumonia upon arriving to camp. Moral of the story? Guys that were tabbed for Durham are now being thrust into the Rays’ rotation, as Nathan Karns has been announced as one of the starters for the team’s first series. Thanks to an off day on the season’s fourth day, Tampa Bay can use just four starters for the first nine days of the season, meaning they’ll most likely break camp with four men in the rotation. Matt Andriese appears to be the front-runner for that fourth slot, with Mike Montgomery and Burch Smith still in the hunt, though Smith has already been optioned to Minor League camp and Montgomery is converting to the bullpen.
So what does this all mean for Durham? Smith, Enny Romero, Everett Teaford and Dylan Floro have all be optioned or reassigned to the minors so far. However the injury bug caught Romero as well, and it appears he won’t be ready for Opening Day. You can count on Teaford and Floro beginning the year in the Durham rotation, with Smith in the mix as well if he doesn’t make the big league roster. Additionally, late Monday night it was reported Tampa Bay had signed southpaw Scott Diamond, who could begin the season with Durham after splitting 2014 between Rochester and Louisville, both in the IL. More possibilities could very well be either Cobb or Smyly in a rehab stint, or Grayson Garvin, who spent all of last season with Double-A Montgomery.
In the bullpen there are spots to be had as well. With Jake McGee still working back from injury, you can safely assume the Rays will carry Grant Balfour, Jeff Beliveau, Brad Boxberger, Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen. Assuming they begin with a four-man rotation, that potentially leaves four more bullpen spots that could be filled by Steve Geltz, Mike Montgomery, CJ Riefenhauser and Kirby Yates, with the option of placing Smith in the bullpen as well. So per the Trickle Down Effect, expect the “budgeted” eight spots in the Durham bullpen to be filled by candidates from the list of Ronald Belisario, Andrew Bellatti, Jose Dominguez, Brandon Gomes, Jhan Marinez, Jim Miller, Jordan Norberto, Jim Patterson, Bryce Stowell, Jake Thompson and Robert Zarate.
The Rays are more settled behind the dish than on the mound, as Rene Rivera will be the everyday catcher. The battle for the No. 2 backstop is still going though between Curt Casali and newcomer Bobby Wilson. Whoever doesn’t begin the season at the Trop will be tabbed for Durham, while youngster Luke Maile will most likely suit up in a Bulls uniform to begin the season as well.
Vince Belnome, Ryan Brett, Allan Dykstra, Hak-Ju Lee and Eugenio Velez have all already been optioned or reassigned to Minor League camp, which probably means they’re tabbed for the Bull City. Still fighting for a big league spot though are Tim Beckham, Alexi Casilla, Jake Elmore and Juan Francisco. You can anticipate only one of the four will make the Opening Day roster, seemingly sending three north to Durham (Juan Francisco does have an April 5th opt-out clause if not on the Major League roster.)
After he was optioned to minors camp a little more than a week ago, Mikie Mahtook – the team’s reigning MVP – will open 2015 in the DBAP’s outfield. In all likelihood he’ll be joined by veterans and newcomers Corey Brown and Joey Butler, with 25-year-old Taylor Motter rounding out the unit.
Despite being just nine days away from the season opener, there’s clearly still much to be decided. It will, as it typically does, come down to decisions from the big club. Even with the injuries in Tampa, Durham should still have a strong roster, and you can count on it getting stronger as the spring rolls on. As players return to health and rejoin the Rays, guys that have stepped up to fill spots will return to the minors, making the Bulls even more dangerous.