Zobrist likely to start season on DL

Zobrist likely to start season on DL

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' disabled list is getting crowded.

With Scott Kazmir and Rocco Baldelli already expected to start the season on the DL, another trio of Rays players will likely join them once the official announcement is made.

Monday's biggest news was the status of utility player Ben Zobrist, who fractured his left thumb on March 9. X-rays taken on on Monday confirmed that Zobrist's injury had not healed enough to begin play.

While the Rays have not made an official statement regarding Zobrist, he will likely start the season on the DL. If the Rays do put him on the DL retroactively, Zobrist could be ready as early as April 5.

Manager Joe Maddon did confirm that it was "more than likely" pitchers Chad Orvella and Kurt Birkins would start the season on the DL as well. Orvella has struggled with shoulder problems throughout Spring Training, while Birkins has had pain in his left elbow. Neither reliever is expected to break camp with the club.

With Zobrist unable to start the season as the Rays' utility man, the club will elect to keep either Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac or Andy Cannizaro.

Johnson has been the front-runner, as the 24-year-old has been a pleasant surprise for the Rays, batting .463 and displaying dazzling athleticism filling in at second base and center field.

The final decision is expected to be made this week.

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.