Mailbag: Will Rays revamp infield?

Mailbag: Will Rays revamp infield?

Do you think the Rays will try to go after a shortstop and second baseman this offseason or will they look into the Minor Leagues? I know Josh Wilson and Brendan Harris had good years, but are they the answer? Will the Rays look to find bullpen help in the offseason or will they stay with the bullpen they have now?
-- Eric P., Cusseta, Ga.

Finding another shortstop is not out of the question, but I don't believe they would be unhappy to open the season with either Wilson or Harris. And don't forget Ben Zobrist. He had a hard-luck season in 2007, but he's the kind of guy you never count out. As for the Minor Leagues, I don't think top-shortstop prospect Reid Brignac is ready yet.

I believe the team's first priority in the offseason will be to find a couple of relievers. Manager Joe Maddon has always preached about his desire to have four guys in the 'pen he can go to with the lead or the game tied. Toward the end of the year, the Rays were close to having that with Al Reyes, Scott Dohmann, Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour. Jon Switzer also had some nice outings, which could bode well for him in 2008. But a veteran or two out there would really help, particularly with the young complexion of the starting staff.

How can you ignore a second baseman on a team fighting for first place as the Rookie of the Year, and batting 20 points higher than a right fielder for Tampa?
-- DeManche B., Peoria, Ill.

Once again, we're talking about the great Delmon Young vs. Dustin Pedroia for American League Rookie of the Year. Recently, I expressed my opinion that I thought Young should be the winner of the award based on what I saw. I have since clarified my opinion by stating that I saw Young play a lot more, which obviously skewed my view. But based on the reasoning by DeManche B. of Peoria, Ill., I have a couple of thoughts.

First, if Young were on the Red Sox and Pedroia on the Rays, would your opinion be different? And next, I believe if Young played for the Red Sox -- and called Fenway Park home -- his average would be quite a bit higher, as would his home run totals. And once again let me say, I believe Pedroia is a nice player, I've just seen Young a lot and I like what I've seen.

Are the Rays really going to keep Rocco Baldelli long term? He is never healthy enough to play and we are just dishing out money to him. We have the best outfield in the Majors, I think, in Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Young, so he is very expendable. Will the front office wake up and trade or release him?
-- Ryan C., St. Petersburg, Fla.

Right now, I don't think they have much of a choice but to keep Baldelli. While he has struggled to remain healthy, he is a great asset when he is playing. If, and when, the Rays get him back playing again, not only will it help the team, but it will add value to Baldelli if other teams are interested. So right now, I think it's like that old story about the cowboy riding a horse through a field of thorny bushes: It hurts to stay on the horse, but it hurts worse to get off.

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I have been hearing complaints about Leather Lungs lately. Clearly, some Rays fans are not used to this colorful tradition that occurs in all levels of pro and amateur ball. Leather Lungs selects his target on the other side and cleanly rides him whenever he steps to the plate. What can be done to help Leather Lungs make the Juice Can (the Trop) a more miserable place to visit?
-- Bob S., St. Petersburg, Fla.

Leather Lungs is Tropicana Field's own heckler, who sits behind home plate and rides the opposing team relentlessly at the top of his lungs. The heckler has always maintained that he won't be heard once the home crowd drowns him out. Right now, the only crowds that drown him out are those cheering for the Red Sox and Yankees.

After Maddon and Young's fiasco on the second to last game of the season and Young's decision not to play in the finale, do you believe that the escalated tension between Young and Maddon will continue next season?
-- David G., Tampa

I don't believe it will. Maddon seemed to have gotten his message across and Young apologized.

Can and will we pay Carlos Pena and does he want to come back?
-- Neal H., St. Petersburg, Fla.

Pena definitely wants to come back. He lives in Orlando and enjoys living in St. Petersburg during the season. In addition, he likes Maddon and his teammates. He is arbitration-eligible, which means he's likely to cash in based on the solid season he compiled as the Rays' first baseman. Some have questioned whether he can maintain his numbers in the future, others -- such as the Rays, in particular Maddon -- believe he can. I think the Rays will do what is necessary to keep Pena. They like him as a player and a person.

The new jerseys and hats are being released to the public on Nov. 8, but when will they be on sale?
-- Ned L., Pittsburgh, Pa.

According to the Rays, merchandise will go on sale Nov. 9 at Champs locations.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.