Restoring the rosters: No. 21 – Tampa Bay

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
At this point, having been around for a mere 12 years is only a modest disadvantage for the latest expansion teams. Most of the other clubs here still have a couple of players drafted or signed prior to 1996, but those players are largely on the downsides of their careers. Unfortunately, while the Rays were allowed to start drafting players in 1996, they didn’t start really piling up talent until 1999 and there have still been some lean years since. They’ve gotten a whole lot better, but the Rays still rank in the bottom third here.
Rotation
James Shields
Jeff Niemann
David Price
Andy Sonnanstine
Jason Hammel
Bullpen
Dan Wheeler
Bobby Seay
Brian Stokes
Seth McClung
Chad Gaudin
Doug Waechter
Brandon Backe
The rotation is still one pitcher short, but that should change when Wade Davis or Jeremy Hellickson emerges next year. Price still projects as an ace, and Shields should look nice as a No. 2 starter for a few more years.
Closing out games is the one major leaguer the Rays did draft and develop in 1996: Wheeler. The bullpen is stacked with quality arms that have produced mixed results. Stokes, though, has turned into a decent enough sixth- or seventh-inning guy as a Met, and Gaudin’s ability to shift between the rotation and pen makes him fairly valuable.
Seay, along with Travis Lee, was one of the 1996 draft picks declared a free agent on a technicality. He signed with the Rays after being picked by the White Sox, so he’s listed here.
Lineup
CF B.J. Upton
LF Carl Crawford
3B Evan Longoria
RF Josh Hamilton
1B Jorge Cantu
DH Aubrey Huff
2B Akinori Iwamura
SS Reid Brignac
C Shawn Riggans
Bench
OF Jonny Gomes
OF Elijah Dukes
INF Edgar Gonzalez
C Toby Hall
It’s hardly a big surprise, but the outfield is the Rays’ strength: Crawford, Hamilton, Upton, Dukes, Gomes, Delmon Young, Rocco Baldelli, Matt Diaz and Fernando Perez, with another quality center fielder on the way in Desmond Jennings. I opted to use a bench spot on Gomes so that he could start at DH against lefties. I considered dropping Huff from the roster, going with Dukes and Gomes at DH and adding Diaz, but there still wouldn’t anyone for Diaz to platoon with.
The depth elsewhere isn’t nearly as impressive. Brignac hasn’t developed as hoped and probably isn’t ready to be a regular shortstop. The lone legitimate utilityman is Gonzalez, and he’s a weak defender at the middle-infield spots. Neither catcher ranks among the game’s top 60 backstops. Still, Riggans isn’t a bad defender. The offense figures to be very good even with a couple of easy outs at the bottom of the lineup.
Summary
All things considered, the Rays don’t rank as highly as they should. Between 1999 and 2008, they drafted first four times and in the top eight every year, yet only five of those players crack the top 25. Still, it is an improved group over what the Rays would have boasted a couple of years ago. The team is doing a better job of developing pitching now, and the offensive core remains quite young. As is obvious to everyone, the organization is headed in the right direction.

Braves’ Markakis misses game because of family emergency

Nick Markakis, Nick Swisher
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NEW YORK (AP) Braves right fielder Nick Markakis has left the team because of a family emergency.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said before Wednesday’s game against the Mets that Markakis had headed home to Maryland. The veteran is expected to be back in time for Friday’s home game against Arizona. Atlanta is off Thursday.

Chase d’Arnaud is starting in right field and Mallex Smith is leading off Wednesday.

Markakis is hitting .281 with no home runs and 20 RBIs.

Report: more major league PED suspensions coming soon

FILE - In this May 30, 2007 file photo a blister with the steroid Oral-Turinabol is displayed in Dresden, eastern Germany. Oral-Turinabol was the main drug in the state-controlled doping in former East Germany.    (AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel, file)
Associated Press
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T.J. Quinn of ESPN’s Outside the Lines reports that another major leaguer — or possibly several of them — will soon be suspended for PEDs. He says that, as was the case with Chris Colabello and others recently, the drug will be Turinabol, which is an old school anabolic steroid. Quinn says that improved testing procedures, which he details in the article, are a likely reason for the spike in Turinabol positives, though it’s also possible that there is a tainted supplement being taken, though he deems that speculative.

What isn’t mentioned is . . . how an ESPN reporter knows a positive test is coming when the drug testing program is supposed to be confidential. Someone with the league or the union must be telling him, right? That’s sort of messed up, no? Will MLB investigate who is leaking such things?

Whatever the case, we’ll soon have a new police blotter item, it seems.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s afternoon action

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez gives a thumbs-up as he is pulled from the team's baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Seattle. The Mariners won 1-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Wednesday usually means day baseball and today we have seven games on tap before the cocktail hour. Well, before most people’s cocktail hour. Do what you want but some of us have fewer hangups about such things. Working at home is amazing, you guys.

The most notable thing of today’s pitching matchups is that, because of staggered days off, skipped starts and stuff, we’re finally out of that lockstep, early-season thing in which aces face aces all the time. That’s fun and everything — it’s great for the fans — but I bet it annoys the pitchers to some degree. Felix Hernandez vs. Sonny Gray is a marquee matchup. But I bet Felix is happy to be facing Sean Manaea in his second-ever big league start as opposed to a dude who might match zeros with him. Ohio State schedules MAC schools for many of the same reasons.

Anyway, here are the matchups. Skip work, tell your boss you’ve gotta see a guy about a thing and watch baseball. In your heart you know it’s the right thing to do:

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Juan Nicasio), 12:35 PM EDT, PNC Park;

San Francisco Giants (Jake Peavy) @ Cincinnati Reds (Dan Straily), 12:35 PM EDT, Great American Ball Park

Atlanta Braves (Jhoulys Chacin) @ New York Mets (Steven Matz), 1:10 PM EDT, Citi Field

Los Angeles Angels (Hector Santiago) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Zach Davies), 1:40 PM EDT, Miller Park

Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg) @ Kansas City Royals (Kris Medlen), 2:15 PM EDT, Kauffman Stadium

Seattle Mariners (Felix Hernandez) @ Oakland Athletics (Alex Manaea), 3:35 PM EDT, Oakland Coliseum

Colorado Rockies (Tyler Chatwood) @ San Diego Padres (Cesar Vargas), 3:40 PM EDT, Petco Park

Is Bud Black the favorite to be the next Braves manager?

Bud Black
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We talked last week about how Fredi Gonzalez is likely a dead man walking as the Braves manager. They stink, he’s a lame duck and part of the team’s whole marketing thrust is “2017 will be a new beginning,” what with the new ballpark and all. It stands to reason that Mr. Gonzalez doesn’t have long for this world.

Last week I suspected he’d be fired tomorrow, the Braves off day before a home stand. They’ve won in the past week, but it still wouldn’t shock me. Even if firing Gonzalez would be an act of scapegoating. It’s the roster that’s the problem, not the manager, even though Fredi doesn’t exactly inspire anyone.

Today Bob Nightengale throws this into the mix:

As of yet he hasn’t followed that up with an actual column or more tweets about who, exactly, considers Black to be the heavy favorite, but there’s a definitiveness to that which makes me think he’s heard something solid.

Black, as you know, was the long time Padres manager who had an unsuccessful flirtation with the Nationals before they hired Dusty Baker this past offseason. Black is now cooling his heels with his longtime boss Mike Scioscia in Anaheim, in what is clearly a “wait for his next managing opportunity” posture.

Could it be in Atlanta? At least one national writer and some nebulous group of insiders believe so, it would seem.