By Bryan Levine, Sports Writer
PORT CHARLOTTE — The Tampa Bay Rays’ Opening Day roster became a little clearer after another round of cuts yesterday.
Seven players were informed they’ve been sent down to the minor leagues, with very little surprises on the list.
The cuts with most significance were catchers Luke Maile and Curt Casali, who were each vying for the backup catcher role.
“Obviously difficult decisions,” manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s come down to the wire. … Both of them took to some of the organization’s thoughts and made themselves better, but we felt right now, heading into Opening Day, Derek (Norris) and Jesus (Sucre) give us the best chances at winning games.”
With Maile and Casali being optioned to Triple-A Durham, Jesus Sucre was officially notified he will be on the Opening Day roster.
“I’ve been waiting for this for several days now,” Sucre said. “These last few days I couldn’t sleep because I’ve been waiting to hear, and I’m very excited to hear the news finally.”
When the spring began, Maile, Casali and Sucre were competing for two catcher spots, but once the Rays signed Derek Norris last week, it was solidified the newcomer was going to be the starter. As spring continued to progress, Sucre, who was initially slated to be the odd man out, continued to impress at camp.
“I came here and I was working very hard to do what I could,” Sucre said. “I knew I had a small chance to make it, and I put in the work and did everything I could. Toward the end there, it got a little sticky and a little difficult, but I was able to accomplish it.”
Sucre, who is now the third non-roster invitee to make the roster, joining Rickie Weeks Jr. and Tommy Hunter, was loved by the pitchers in the Rays’ rotation, which likely helped his case.
“He’s done a nice job getting to know the guys, but defensively, he’s been tremendous,” Cash said. “He can throw as good as anybody. When you get a group of pitchers who are complimenting one guy, obviously it’s pretty good.”
Also joining Maile and Casali as players optioned to the minors is reliever Ryan Garton. All three players are still technically on 40-man roster, but could eventually find their ways off as the Rays need to make room for Sucre and possibly newly acquired outfielder Peter Bourjos.
Four players who weren’t on the 40-man roster who were cut today are Michael McKenry, Justin Marks, Diego Moreno and Shane Peterson. Their roster move is classified as reassigned.
Cash was complimentary of Marks and Moreno.
“I liked them both,” he said. It’s hard to envision a scenario where they’re not at some point helping us out in the big leagues.”
That leaves 36 players in the Rays’ clubhouse – with seven likely headed to the DL – which means four more cuts need to be made before Sunday afternoon.
The Sun will have a roster projection and breakdown for what you could likely see for the Rays on Opening Day.