ALCS roster could go down to wire

ALCS roster could go down to wire

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' advancement to the American League Championship Series offers the club the possibility of tinkering with their 25-man postseason roster, a "debate" that executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman expects to mirror that of the AL Division Series.

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The team's finalized ALDS roster -- which came right down to Thursday's 10 a.m. ET deadline -- was composed of 10 pitchers and 15 position players, and the forefront of second-round discussions will again be the importance of an 11th pitcher versus an extra bench spot.

Closer Troy Percival and backup catcher Shawn Riggans are two names that could come into the mix. The pair was left off the ALDS roster, but could be activated for the best-of-seven set against the Red Sox that starts Friday.

Percival served as the team's closer in the regular season, but struggled with injuries, experiencing a substantial dip in numbers in the season's second half. He compiled a 1-0 record with a 3.54 ERA and 19 saves in 29 first-half appearances, but went 1-1 with a 6.11 ERA and nine saves in 21 second-half appearances.

Since being left off the ALDS roster, the 39-old Percival has twice thrown in instructional league games and came out of Monday's appearance pleased with his overall health and strike-throwing abilities.

A four-time AL All-Star with significant postseason experience, Percival said that as of Monday he had not spoken with anyone in the Rays' organization about a specific plan. Instead, the right-hander was opting to stay loose on his own merit.

"The only reason I came to throw [on Monday] is to give them the opportunity if they want to use me [the next series], they can," Percival said. "If they don't want to, they don't have to."

On Tuesday, Friedman acknowledged that Percival is healthy enough to be included in the club's roster conversations, but wasn't as convinced concerning Riggans.

"He's made a lot of progress, [but] he's not quite where he needs to be yet," Friedman said of the backstop, who was placed on the disabled list on Sept. 18, following right knee surgery performed Sept. 10. "Whether or not we will get there Friday remains to be seen."

In addition to the decisions on Percival and Riggans, Friedman said there will be "other considerations" before finalizing the roster, but was mum on any specific details.

On paper, adding an extra pitcher to shoulder the load of a potential seven game series would make more sense than having an extra bench player. But, as Friedman pointed out, the first five games of the ALCS is set up almost exactly like the five-game division series, with an off-day and a mini-two game series to follow if necessary.

"It's going to be an interesting conversation," Friedman said, "and one I think there's great points both ways."

What's not up for debate concerning the ALCS, is the significant edge the Rays have with home-field advantage. Tampa Bay went 8-1 against Boston inside the domed walls of Tropicana Field, and finished the year with a Major League-best 57 home wins.

"At the end of the day, I think it's going to be won with pitching and defense just like a number of our games were this year," Friedman said. "We do have a unique home field ... we are glad we are going to be playing a potential seven games here at the Trop."

Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.