"We've already been meeting [to discuss the situation]," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been talking about it all along. When it comes right down to that moment, we'll make that decision. We'll play different scenarios mentally in regard to what we want to do. But, to me, you always talk about it, but you have to wait until the very end of the week to see how it all plays out."
Currently, James Shields is the only lock to maintain his position in the starting rotation. The rest of the rotation, which includes Matt Garza, Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine, could all be in play.
Garza or Sonnanstine could be optioned back to Triple-A Durham, but Jackson and Hammel are out of options, so if anything is done with either it would likely involve a shift to the bullpen. Otherwise they would have to clear waivers to remain in the organization.
"That potentially could happen, one of the starters goes to the bullpen," Maddon said. "Who would be best suited for that would be a consideration, also. And, again, we've talked about all the different [options] with that, in regard to how that could come to be."
If one of the starters were to be shifted to the bullpen, a member of the bullpen would have to be either optioned or designated for assignment.
Kurt Birkins will be optioned back to Triple-A Durham once Al Reyes returns on Thursday, making Scott Dohmann, who does not have options, and J.P. Howell, who does have options, possible candidates to be moved to make room for one of the starters if that scenario develops.
"There's no doubt in my mind, you would loose the guys without options if you were attempting to send them down," Maddon said. "You would lose these guys. They're pitching at a very high level and they would be very attractive to a lot of people."
Maddon said they will not consider a six-man rotation.
"It's tough, [and] we actually have some very tough decisions to make based on people who are very qualified," Maddon said. "In the past, honestly, it's been we're just trying to fill a hole once in a while. So this is a tough one. This is real tough. I just want to let it play [out]."
The decision needs to be made once Kazmir is activated either May 3 or May 4 in Boston. Maddon has not yet decided which day Kazmir will start.
"We told Kaz once he comes back [to the team after Monday night's start] we'll finally nail down the date," Maddon said. "So when he goes and pitches in Durham and then he comes to us, [we'll decide]. ... If I had to weigh in one direction, I would weigh toward Sunday right now."
And May 4 would delay a tough decision until the last possible moment.
"However this shakes this coming week, it's going to shake," Maddon said. "And it could change at any moment also. We just feel like all these guys are qualified. We're just going to have to make a tough decision."