Rays leave Dioner Navarro, Jeremy Hellickson, and Willy Aybar off playoff roster


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.

Henderson Alvarez signs with Tigres de Quintana Roo

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Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.

The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.

That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.