Spring Training Notes: Motter To Minor League Camp, Rays May Tap Durham Pitchers For Spot Starts

Snell HBWB

Left-handed pitcher Blake Snell, the Rays’ No. 1 prospect, could be one of a handful of Bulls who sees time in Tampa Bay early in season.

As Friday’s split-squad games mark the end of Spring Training for the Rays, the team announced a few of the final cuts and reassignments of the spring.  Infielder/outfielder Taylor Motter’s move to minor league camp is perhaps the most notable move of the past week to Bulls fans.

Motter impressed Rays coaches and front office staff with a .250 average in 14 games this spring, including a home run and three doubles. His defense was also impressive for a utility player, as he showed the ability to play almost anywhere on the field in the majors.

“We’d have all the confidence in the world (bringing him up), basically playing him anywhere,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told the Tampa Tribune. More from Cash on Motter.

Motter will likely see time all over the field, but Cash mentioned wanting him to get more time at shortstop. MLB.com’s Bill Chastain had more on how Motter’s strong showing makes him a likely call-up.

The Motter move likely signals that Tim Beckham will start the season with the Rays. With one option remaining on his contract, Beckham could very well see time in Durham if a roster spot is needed for the big league club.

Last season saw 213 (!!!) transactions for the Bulls, with a few players on the “Durham Shuttle.” The Shuttle is the affectionate term for players who are called up or sent down to accommodate holes in the Rays’ roster due to injury, fatigue or performance. This week, Roger Mooney wrote about Mikie Mahtook’s time on the Shuttle last season.

Mooney also noted that since the Rays announced they will go with a four-man pitching rotation to start the season, a starter from Durham will likely be the fifth when needed. This goes against the assumption that Erasmo Ramirez would have been the fifth starter when needed, instead suggesting that he will only be used out of the bullpen for the first part of the season.

The Rays’ schedule allows for only one or two times a fifth starter would be needed (based on when their off days fall) through the first month of the season. Any Bulls players who could be the Rays’ fifth starter when needed will use this as another chance to prove themselves as a viable full-time fifth starter for the big league club.

The less-heralded catcher position battle in Tampa Bay could have affected the Bulls roster this season, as Curt Casali, Rene Rivera and Hank Conger all vied for two spots on the roster. The Rays will go with Casali and Conger splitting time to begin the season, as Rivera was released on Wednesday. Conger could still see time in Durham his season, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin noted that he still has an option left.

In a flurry of moves on Wednesday, March 30, the Rays released RHPs David Carpenter and Dan Johnson, informed 1B James Loney that he would not make the team, and reassigned INF Richie Shaffer and RHP Matt AndrieseLoney could be traded or released, while Andriese and Shaffer should see time in both Durham and Tampa Bay. Andriese went 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in three games this spring and Shaffer hit .125 with a home run and a double in 12 games.

Other players optioned in the past week included RHPs Jhan Marinez and Tyler Sturdevant, C Mayo Acosta and OF Jaff Decker.

One notable 2015 Bull who wasn’t reassigned to Durham was OF Mikie Mahtook. Hitting .241 with a home run and 4 RBIs in 13 games this spring, Mahtook appears to be in contention for one of the final spots on the Rays’ Opening Day Roster.

Relief pitchers Andrew Belatti, Danny Farquhar and Dana Eveland are also in contention for the final two spots on the Opening Day roster. Eveland has an opt-out he can exercise on Friday if he doesn’t make the active roster.

***UPDATE: Topkin now says Eveland may not have a Friday opt-out. The final two roster moves may not be made until Saturday or Sunday.***

Notes: The Rays’ farm system jumped from No. 24 in 2015 to No. 11 entering this season in Baseball Prospectus’ latest Organizational Rankings… The Tampa Tribune’s Roger Mooney noted that the Rays’ lineup is essentially set and previewed the batting order… Some other reassigned players from late last week: RHPs Kyle McPherson and Mark Sappington, and INF Juniel Querecuto… After the Rays used iPads in the dugout to access scouting reports and other advanced analytics last season, the MLB and Apple signed a deal to make iPads available in every dugout in the league… The consensus among Rays beat writers is that the active roster will be finalized sometime Saturday, April 2. The Bulls roster won’t be far behind that.

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