Luke Scott is close to returning to the Rays after missing most of the first month of the season with a strained right calf. He began his rehab assignment Tuesday night with the Rays High A affiliate Port Charlotte Stone Crabs where he went 1 for 4 with 2 strikeouts as the designated hitter. The duration of the rehabilitation assignment is unknown but if he does not suffer any setbacks he should be ready to rejoin the Rays sometime near the end of the week or early next week.
Upon his return the Rays will have to clear a spot on their 25-man roster and they only have a handful of options available. The candidates are Sam Fuld, Shelley Duncan, Ryan Roberts, and Sean Rodriguez. The Rays can not send Fuld, Roberts, or Duncan to the minors without passing them through waivers and if unclaimed each could be a free agent rather than report to Triple-A Durham.
Sam Fuld is off to a slow start hitting .111 (4 for 29) but his value to the Rays is derived more from his speed, glove, and his ability to do the “under the hood” things such as laying down a sacrifice bunt and as a pinch runner. His ability to play all 3 outfield positions at a high level also gives Joe Maddon a great late inning defensive replacement and the ability to give a day off to any of his regular outfielders. He is out of options and would have to pass through waivers before giving him the choice as to whether to report to Durham or declare himself a free agent.
Shelley Duncan was a late addition to the Rays roster replacing the injured Scott. He is a right handed power bat who can play left field and first base but his true value lies in his power off the bench. This season he is only hitting .204 (9 for 44) but does have 2 home runs and has a respectable on-base percentage of .327 thanks to 8 walks.
Ryan Roberts has the ability to play all over the diamond but since joining the Rays in 2012 he has primarily played second base or third base. Recently the Rays have given him a few innings over at first base Joe Maddon has added his name to those will get time at first base when James Loney sits and has shown more confidence in him by moving him up to the second spot in the batting order. He has rewarded his manager by responded going 5 for 11 including last nights 3-hit including 2 homer vs CC Sabathia to raise his season average to .308 (12-39). Unlike Fuld, Duncan, or Rodriguez the Rays have skin in the game with Roberts as he is signed to a 1-year/$2.95MM contract which they would be on the hook for the remainder of if they were to remove him from the roster.
Sean Rodriguez is the Rays super utility player logging time at any infield or outfield position. In his career the right handed hitting Rodriguez has had the most success versus left handed pitching and will be used in that role in 2013. He has not been given much of an opportunity and is hitting only .227 (5 for 22) and has walked twice while striking out seven times.
It stands to reason that Sean Rodriguez would be the most likely candidate to be sent to the minors given that he has an option remaining (meaning he can be sent to the minors without passing through waivers). Additionally, by sending him to the minors the Rays could maintain their depth and he could play everyday and get consistent plate appearances. Thanks to his versatility he would be the most logical candidate to be called up in the event of an injury to any other position player other than catcher.