Rays undecided about rookie Jake McGee’s role for 2011

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After sitting out most of 2009 following elbow surgery Jake McGee returned to the mound last season as a starter with great success and then shifted to the bullpen in the second half before debuting with the Rays in September as a reliever.

However, now that McGee is two years removed from going under the knife pitching coach Jim Hickey told Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times that the Rays “still like McGee as a possible starting pitcher” because “you can’t have too much starting pitching and with that big body he’s got I just see a guy who’s capable of eating a lot of innings for a lot of years.”

Even after trading Matt Garza to the Cubs the Rays still have a full rotation, with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson expected to replace Garza alongside holdovers David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, and Jeff Niemann. And they also still have Andy Sonnanstine, who started 72 games from 2007-2009 before spending most of 2010 in the bullpen.

Hickey called McGee “a really good candidate” to step into the bullpen following the free agent departures of Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, and Randy Choate. It may be similar to Chris Sale in Chicago, where the White Sox believe he’ll eventually be a top-of-the-rotation starter but may end up keeping him in the bullpen for the short term simply because there’s a bigger immediate need there.

Baseball America ranked McGee as the game’s 37th-best prospect in 2007 and 15th-best prospect in 2008, and in 20 starts and 10 relief appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season he posted a 3.07 ERA and 127/36 K/BB ratio in 106 innings while allowing just three homers.

The Mets expect Tim Tebow to come back next year

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Mets assistant general manager John Ricco told Newsday today that he expects minor league outfielder Tim Tebow to return for a third season in professional baseball.

Tebow, 31, broke the hamate bone in his right hand while swinging a bat in late July, ending his season. It was a fairly successful season for him all things considered. After being promoted to Double-A Binghamton to start the year he hit .273/.336/.399 with six home runs, a stolen base and a .734 OPS in 298 plate appearances and made the Double-A All-Star team. That’s not the stuff of a top prospect — he strikes out far too much and the power numbers aren’t fantastic given that power would figure to be his strongest tool — but it’s pretty respectable for a guy his age and with his relative lack of baseball experience. As I said back in July, you can believe the Mets’ interest in Tebow is more marketing than baseball, but that does not preclude you from giving the guy a deserved tip of the cap for working hard and sticking it out in the bush leagues.

Assuming he does come back, the Mets are likely to start him at Triple-A Syracuse in the hopes that he’d eventually get to the bigs as a late season callup if the Mets aren’t in contention. Indeed, many believed that was the plan for him this year had he not been injured.