Rays Will Call Up Hideki Matsui On Tuesday, Expected To Join Club In Chicago

One of Japan's most storied hitters is expected to sign a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Rays Spring Training 2012: Tampa Bay Preps For Pitching, Shortstop Competitions

In 2011, the Tampa Bay Rays had one of the single most amazing seasons in the history of the sport. They may have lost in the first round of the playoffs, but the Rays' magical, most unprecedented September led to a 9-game comeback and a dramatic, Hollywood-esque winning of the AL Wild Card over their rival the Boston Red Sox.

Tampa Bay begins their quest to repeat and improve upon 2011's success in just a matter of days. The Rays officially head down to Port Charlotte on Monday when pitchers and catchers make their first showing, but the complex is already buzzing with players and activity ahead of the reporting dates:

Pitchers and catchers report

Monday, Feb. 20

Full team reports

Sunday, Feb. 26


The team heads into came with at least three unanswered questions:

1) Will Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez win the starting job at shortstop? Or will they end up in one of Joe Maddon's fancy platoons? The team would obviously prefer one of the two to wow Maddon and earn a full-time position outright.

2) Will Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann go to the bullpen? The two starters have to prove all their worth because it looks like rookie sensation Matt Moore has already earned his rotation spot. If an injury or trade does not open a spot for Davis or Niemann, one of them will be a reliever at the start of the season.

3) How many games will Jose Molina be asked to start? Let us be frank: Molina is a defensive diamond. He is the very definition of the Rays' search for the extra 2% -- but he is 36 and playing the most physically demanding position on the field. The Rays said they wanted more catchers to compete with Molina, but for now they have only the young duo of Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos, neither of whom may be ready for heavy catching duties at the MLB level.

Rays 2012 Roster

The best for the Rays roster probably looks something like this:

Starters
LF Desmond Jennings
2B Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
DH Luke Scott
RF Matt Joyce
CF B.J. Upton
C Jose Molina
SS Sean Rodriguez

Bench
INF Jeff Keppinger
C Jose Lobaton
OF Sam Fuld
INF Elliot Johnson or Reid Brignac

Rotation
1. James Shields
2. David Price
3. Jeremy Hellickson
4. Matt Moore
5. Jeff Niemann
or Wade Davis

Projected bullpen
Closer: Kyle Farnsworth
RH fireman: Joel Peralta
LH fireman: J.P. Howell
Groundball: Burke Badenhop
LOOGY: Jake McGee
Middle: Josh Lueke / Fernando Rodney
Swing man: Davis or Niemann

2012 Rays Spring Training Schedule

The Rays kick off their Grapefruit League action on March 3 and take only one off day (March 19) until Spring Training concludes in early April. Here's a look at their opening slate of games:

Saturday, Mar. 3: Rays @ Twins, 1:05 p.m.

Sunday, Mar. 4: Rays vs. Twins*, 1:05 p.m.

Monday, Mar. 5: Rays vs. Orioles*, 1:05 p.m.

Tuesday, Mar. 6: Rays vs. Twins, 1:05 p.m.

Wednesday, Mar. 7: Rays @ Yankees, 1:05 p.m.

Thursday, Mar. 8: Rays* vs. Tigers, 1:05 p.m.
Thursday, Mar. 8: Rays* @ Twins, 1:05 p.m.

Friday, Mar. 9: Rays vs. Orioles, 1:05 p.m.

*split squad

For more notes and analysis on the Tampa Bay Rays, check out the Rays blog DRaysBay. And stay tuned to SB Nation Tampa Bay for breaking news and schedules for all Florida sports teams.

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Rays Offseason 2012: Tampa Bay VP Andrew Friedman Talks Upcoming Season

Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman took the air ways Thursday, as he joined the Countdown to Opening Day radio show on 620-WDAE and talked Rays offseason. Friedman addressed multiple issues including: offseason acquisitions, manger Joe Madden, Triple-A pitching depth and the battle between Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac.

"If you had told me then where we stand now with upgrading where we did and also maintaining our depth in the meantime, I would have said that that was a dream scenario,'' said Friedman. "We still have a lot of work to do in terms of this division and this league, but as far within the scope of what we can do, this off-season worked out very well in our estimation.’’

Friedman quickly touched on the catching situation, which will feature veteran Jose Molina paired with either Jose Lobaton or Robinson Chirinos, is an upgrade from last year.

Meanwhile, he said that Madden should be with the team for many years to come and that Rodriguez and Brignac have really pushed each other during the offseason and are "going to be a lot of fun to watch.''

For more tidbits from the interview, here's the link to Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin post.

For more on the Rays 2012 offseason, check back to this StoryStream. To join in the conversation about this news, drop on by SB Nation's Rays blog, DRaysBay.

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2012 Rays Roster: Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac And The Shortstop Battle

The Rays shortstop competition comes down to four infielders, but the future of certain outfielders could very well change the competition entirely.

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Tampa Bay Rays Sign Luke Scott For $5 Million In 2012; Hold $6 Million Option For 2013

News broke on Wednesday that the Rays had reached a deal with free agent slugger Luke Scott, and it hasn’t taken long for both sides to finalize the agreement. The Tampa Bay Rays have now officially announced that they have signed Scott to a one-year deal for $5 million, with a $6 million option for 2013 ($1 million buyout).

At first blush, that seems like a large chunk of money for the Rays to guarantee for a 33-year-old designated hitter that’s coming off shoulder surgery. But when you put it in perspective, the Rays are essentially paying Scott the same amount that they paid Johnny Damon last season…only Scott is younger and has more offensive upside than Damon. The Rays are going to be in the running for a playoff spot (and they hope to go deep into the playoffs, unlike the past two years), so every bit of talent they add is extra valuable.

So can the Rays expect Scott to hit for Damon’s line from last season (.261/.326/.418, .743 OPS)? Considering that Scott has averaged an .811 OPS over the past three seasons (and yes, that’s including his injury-plagued 2011), I think it’s a safe assumption that Scott should be an improvement over Damon if he’s healthy.

To join in the conversation about this news, drop by SB Nation’s blog on the Rays: DRaysBay.

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