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Inbox: What will lineup be on Opening Day?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers Rays fans' questions

Inbox: What will lineup be on Opening Day?

Let's say no one else gets signed or gets traded between now and Opening Day: How do you see the Rays' roster panning out? And who would be in the Opening Day lineup?
-- David W., Inverness, Fla.

OK, let's fast forward to 4:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field on March 31 for Rays vs. Blue Jays on Opening Day. Obviously, if there are no more trades, David Price is on the mound for Tampa Bay. Since R.A. Dickey is starting for the Blue Jays, the order of the Rays' lineup is chaos -- including left-handed hitters batting right-handed and vice versa against the knuckleballer -- so I won't worry about the order in which they are hitting, rather who is in the lineup.

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Here's what I see:
1. David DeJesus, left field
2. Desmond Jennings, center field
3. Wil Myers, right field
4. Evan Longoria, third base
5. Yunel Escobar, shortstop
6. Ben Zobrist, second base
7. James Loney, first base
8. Ryan Hanigan, catcher
9. Matt Joyce, DH

Closing duties will go to Grant Balfour. Rays should be 1-0 after that one. Pretty easy, right?

It seems that the Rays' ongoing problem is their offense. Even though it seems likelier every day that Price will remain a Ray for 2014, wouldn't there still be a significant chance of the Rays trading him for a big bat, as that was the plan in the first place?
-- Tyler F., Trinity, Fla.

I'm in the minority in that I don't believe the Rays' offense is that big of a problem. The club scores more runs than it allows, which is the idea. And while Tampa Bay could have more boppers in the lineup, at what cost would that extra clout come? Obviously, money is a big factor -- offense is at a premium these days. But say the Rays did get a quality hitter who hits the long ball. Do those home runs make up for subpar or average defense? Not all quality bats come with a quality glove (Longoria is an exception). Remember, the defense played behind Tampa Bay's pitching staff is a factor for why the staff is so good.

I remember Balfour well from when he was with the Rays earlier in his career. Do you see any problem in the dugout with his personality and that of Price?
-- Henry S., Baltimore, Md.

Balfour is fiery, and I think Price is, too. Both want to win. From all I know, they are friends. So I see no problems. And no doubt Price should enjoy seeing Balfour come in to finish off some of his wins.

Time is going by, and it looks like Price won't be traded. I'm really happy about that, but after the last time I remember the Rays had a payroll this high, the team got totally overhauled. Do you see that coming after this season?
-- Carl T., Tampa, Fla.

You're talking about the 2010 season. The payroll that season was $72.8 million, and it dropped to $42.1 million for the '11 season. Despite the payroll difference, both teams made the playoffs. One thing I've learned about Rays ownership: It is unpredictable and smart. I thought the club would decrease the payroll this season, and it did not. So I can't realistically predict what Tampa Bay might do after the coming season. I can only say the team is in good hands.

I think the Rays are showing this year that they are willing to spend some money to put a championship team on the field every day. Do you think this will help get fans into the stadium to support the team?
-- Bob M., Clearwater, Fla.

Coming from somebody who grew up in the Tampa Bay area, I think seeing more fans at Tropicana Field would be good for the area's image. I firmly believe the Tampa/St. Petersburg area loves the Rays and follows them accordingly -- particularly on TV. Everywhere I go, I see people wearing Rays hats, and people are always asking me questions about the team. So I think the interest is definitely there. Hopefully some additional support at the turnstiles will give the area a better image nationally, while helping the finances of the team as well.

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

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