Rays' playoff roster relies on versatility

Rays' playoff roster relies on versatility

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays announced their playoff roster on Thursday morning, just hours before facing the White Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

In comparison to earlier speculation, there were no surprises on a roster that has a lot of flexibility with three left-handers in the bullpen and four switch-hitters among the position players.

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"We have a lot of versatility," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "All I can say is, going into this postseason, I want to play like we did during the regular season, the same kind of a philosophy during the game, same kind of substitutions."

The roster includes 10 pitchers and 15 position players.

The starting pitchers will be James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine.

Relievers include Grant Balfour, Chad Bradford, J.P. Howell, Trever Miller, David Price and Dan Wheeler.

The position players are as follows: catchers -- Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez; infielders -- Willy Aybar, Jason Bartlett, Akinori Iwamura, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and Ben Zobrist; outfielders -- Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Gabe Gross, Eric Hinske, Fernando Perez, and B.J. Upton; and DH -- Cliff Floyd.

Notable names not on the roster included closer Troy Percival, reliever Jason Hammel, starter Edwin Jackson, and outfielder Jonny Gomes.

"Start with Edwin," said Maddon when asked to explain his moves. "We wanted to go with four starters and we chose [Sonnanstine] to be the last starter.

"Edwin coming out of the bullpen has not really been a good option."

Jackson will stay with the team and is scheduled to pitch in an instructional league game Friday to "stay stretched out" in case one of the team's starters gets injured.

Percival served as the team's closer, but struggled with injuries throughout the season and was a different pitcher in the second half than he was in the first half. The veteran closer compiled a 1-0 record with a 3.54 ERA and 19 saves in 29 first-half appearances. In the second half, Percival went 1-1 with a 6.11 ERA and nine saves in 21 appearances.

"It was [a tough decision] but I really believe right now, as much as he's been battling, and as much as he's Braveheart -- that's what he is -- I can just tell he's not right and I think in his heart of hearts, he knows he's not right," Maddon said. "At this time of the year, we have to have guys who can go back-to-back effectively. I don't think he's there yet. ... I'd love to have him back in the near future."

Price will be used out of the bullpen most likely in long relief or in extra innings and Maddon said he is not concerned about whether the organization's top prospect faces a left-handed or right-handed hitter. One concern Maddon has is giving Price an adequate amount of time to loosen up since he's been a starter throughout his career. Price doesn't see getting loose as a problem.

"In Detroit, I got warm a lot quicker than I normally do," Price said. "I can do little things in the bullpen. Maybe go in the back room and throw balls against the wall if I need to. There's tons of ways to stay loose if I need to."

Maddon said his main focus when making out postseason lineups will be to try to make sure the Rays have their best defensive team on the field. Thus, Perez, who is a switch-hitter, could get his first postseason start on Friday when left-hander Mark Buehrle starts for the White Sox. Under that scenario, Baldelli would be the DH. But again, with all the flexibility of the Rays' roster, Maddon also is considering starting Baldelli in right field with the switch-hitting Aybar at DH.

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