Oct 6, 2010, 10:48 AM EDT
Opening Day catcher Dioner Navarro, part-time designated Willy Aybar, and rookie phenom Jeremy Hellickson are all absent from the Rays’ playoff roster, with struggling starter Jeff Niemann and outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Desmond Jennings making the cut in their place.
In fact, Baldelli will actually start at designated hitter against Cliff Lee in Game 1, which is pretty remarkable for a guy who was literally coaching in the minors a couple months ago. Baldelli totaled just 24 at-bats with the Rays, hitting .208, but he’s a career .295/.346/.485 hitter versus lefties.
Niemann lost out to Wade Davis for fourth-starter gig by posting a 7.69 ERA in 11 starts after the All-Star break, but he’ll be used as a long reliever in the ALDS. Not exactly a crucial role, but it does seem odd that the Rays would choose Niemann over Hellickson, who went 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA and 33/8 K/BB ratio in 36.1 innings after being called up in August.
Navarro was the Rays’ starting catcher in the first and last game of the regular season, but is third on the depth chart behind rookie John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. Aybar was the Rays’ starting designated hitter for much of the season, but never actually produced at the plate. Joe Maddon indicated that he liked Jennings’ value as a pinch-runner more than Aybar’s value as a pinch-hitter.
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