As deadline nears, Rays options Alex Jackson, Austin Shenton can only wait

CLEARWATER — With the 13-man pitching staff now set, the Rays are down to picking a backup catcher and a lefty-hitting bench player to complete their 26-man roster for Thursday’s season opener.

While they have in-house candidates for both spots in Alex Jackson and Austin Shenton, they apparently want to take some, or most, of the time before Thursday’s noon roster deadline to consider external options.

As other teams are making their final roster decisions, a number of more proven and established players are becoming available in some form, and it makes sense for the Rays to at least survey them.

As of late Monday afternoon, that group includes catchers Curt Casali and Sandy Leon, and lefty-hitting infielders Mike Ford, Mike Moustakas and Dominic Smith, with more to come.

Jackson, 28, has seemed in line for the catching job behind Rene Pinto since the Rays decided not to add more experienced options to their camp roster. The team first showed interest last August, acquiring Jackson in a minor-league trade with Milwaukee, but he ended up being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Jackson furthered his case Monday, hitting a home run off top Phillies lefty reliever Jose Alvarado.

“We know it’s tough to have springs where you’re kind of on that question mark,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I felt like the last week or so he’s handled things really, really well. Obviously, it’s going to go down to the wire, but good for him for getting hold of a ball.”

Shenton, a 26-year-old who has played only 61 games as high as Triple A, was thrust unexpectedly into the mix for a roster spot last week when lefty-hitting infielder Jonathan Aranda broke his right ring finger, sidelining him for four-six weeks.

Aranda was the second key left-handed bat the Rays lost this spring, with Josh Lowe sidelined earlier, first with left hip inflammation and now with a right oblique strain that may sideline him into May.

“No real update,” Cash said of Lowe. “He’s kind of in that stagnant period where it’s not worse, but it’s not getting any better. … He’s treating and doing exercises; no baseball stuff. It’s just going to take that morning that he wakes up where he kind of gets over the hump. I don’t think he’s quite there yet.”

Shenton had been optioned to minor-league camp on March 11 but was brought back after Aranda was hurt.

As he awaits word on his status, family and friends are also wondering. “A lot of people have asked,” Shenton said. “I just have to basically be like, ‘Hey, I have no idea.’”

More roster stuff

Pitchers Burch Smith and Naoyuki Uwasawa drew interest from multiple teams for big-league jobs after triggering assignment clauses in their minor-league contracts, meaning the Rays will have to decide over the two days whether they are willing to match, and reconfigure their roster plans, or let them go. Catcher Rob Brantly will join Triple-A Durham after not getting an offer. … Jake Odorizzi, the 33-year-old, 11-year-veteran who signed a minor-league deal on March 15, is slated for his first game action Wednesday in a minor-league exhibition in Sarasota. Having missed all of 2023 rehabbing from shoulder surgery, Odorizzi won’t be ready to start the season. Whether he decides to stay with the Rays as he builds up or seeks an opportunity elsewhere remains to be seen.

Opener sold out

The Rays announced that Thursday’s season opener at Tropicana Field is a sellout, with a capacity of around 25,000 with the upper deck not in use. This is the 18th straight year — excluding the fan-less 2020 pandemic-marred season — that the Rays have sold out their home opener.


The Rays finished the outdoor portion of their spring schedule 12-16-2 with a 6-3 win over the Phillies. … They play a final exhibition Tuesday at the Trop vs. Detroit (12:35 p.m.). Tickets are $15 for general admission seating in the lower bowl; gates open at 11:35 p.m.

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