PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - The Tampa Bay Rays came into spring with only a handful of roster spot battles and those question marks have been essentially answered today as the Rays made six more roster cuts in advance of Friday's season opener. First baseman Casey Kotchman, first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter, infielders Ray Olmedo, Felipe Lopez, catcher Craig Albernaz, and outfielder Justin Ruggiano have all been reassigned to minor league camp.
While the Bullpen was mostly finalized yesterday, with the cuts of Rob Delaney and Cory Wade, today we learned the fate of the rest of the Rays bench players. Kotchman fans are going to be disappointed in his departure to Durham, but the fact of the matter is that first base was always Dan Johnsons position and he had very little chance of losing that role to Kotchman during the spring. Kotchman will provide excellent depth to the club and hopefully he can regain some offensive power in Durham.
The cuts also mean that, as many expected, outfielder Sam Fuld has won the bench role as the fifth outfielder. Fuld, acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, has a penchant for making webgem type plays in the outfield, having played centerfield for most of his minor league career. He is a Stanford guy, and is in many ways a Fernando Perez clone in that he will be a great asset defensively and on the basepaths as a pinch runner.
Infielder Elliot Johnson also appears to have won the utility infielder bench position, beating out veteran infielder Felipe Lopez whom some believed had the inside track. Johnson has impressed in spring, showing off his speed by stealing a team record 11 bags in spring training. Johnson is also versatile, having the ability to play all over the infield, a trait that is highly regarded by the Rays management and manager Joe Maddon. The fact that Johnson was out of options and would of been exposed to waivers if he was reassigned presumably played a large role in the decision as Lopez is on a minor league deal and can provide future depth and insurance to the club by starting the season in Durham.