The composition of the roster includes four rookies on Tampa Bay's pitching staff, but several players were involved in last year's divisional clash against Texas.
Niemann was a notable omission from the staff, as the Rays opted for younger arms in the shortened rotation and in the bullpen. Matt Moore, who has made one career start, got the ball in Game 1, and he'll be flanked by James Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson.
Niemann had a rough time in his start Saturday night, when he pitched just one inning against the Blue Jays. What manager Joe Maddon saw that night played into his decision.
"Niemann is just not quite 100 percent yet," Maddon said. "I know we talked about that after the last start. I didn't like the way he was throwing the ball early in the game. Under different circumstances, we probably could have left him in that game or might even be included right now.
"But I still don't think he's at 100 [percent], and we think it is wise to get him 100 percent well in case we do need him. And if he is 100 percent, man, I feel really good about him. I can just tell when he's not right. We all can. It is not just me. With him, we just thought it was better to keep him out for right now. Keep working in the training room and hopefully get to the next round and make another decision."
The Rays have three catchers -- Kelly Shoppach, Jose Lobaton and John Jaso -- on their ALDS roster, and they opted to include five outfielders. Johnny Damon, Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton will be joined by Sam Fuld and Desmond Jennings for the ALDS.
Tampa Bay's six infielders are first baseman Casey Kotchman, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Reid Brignac, third baseman Evan Longoria and multi-positional players Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson, who hit just .194 in 183 at-bats this season.
Dan Johnson, who hit the memorable pinch-hit homer against the Yankees Wednesday night, was not included on the roster, either. Maddon said that was one of the final decisions made in a one-hour meeting that took place Thursday. That call came down to the Rays wanting to keep three catchers so they could remain more flexible in that spot.
"The discussion was Dan Johnson vs. the catchers. That's what it came down to," Maddon said. "Because we felt that Elliot was very important to be there based on what we do and how we do it. And I don't want to use one of our pinch-hitters as a pinch-runner. I don't have to do that. ... [Elliot Johnson] is kind of the joker in the deck right there. ... We wanted to be able to cover all the pinch-hitting spots, too."
Outfielder Brandon Guyer, utility man Russ Canzler and left-hander Alex Torres remained behind, participating in Port Charlotte at the Rays' Instructional League to remain sharp in the event they are needed.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less