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Decision '08: Rays mull roster choices

Decision '08: Rays mull roster choices

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' roster for the American League Championship Series remains to be set.

Manager Joe Maddon said a meeting would take place Wednesday afternoon to try to move the Rays closer to a consensus on the direction they want to take for their matchup with the Red Sox.

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Among the matters to be determined is whether to carry 11 pitchers or 10, which they had during the AL Division Series.

"[We're] still considering 11 pitchers, it's possible we are still discussing all of that. ... I think the one thing you have to guard against in a [seven-game series is] whether you've got one or even two games where you do have to utilize too much [of your] bullpen in a negative situation," Maddon said. "You can't emphasize enough how it is just one game at a time here, and you really have to try to win or lose and just move on to the next day. If you have to suck up a lot of guys, you don't want to utilize the meatier end of the bullpen. I think that is one area you have to be cognizant of protecting. ... This is just about this situation right now, the LCS, and we're still considering that right now."

One development that could make the decision easier of moving to an 11-man staff rather than carrying 10 pitchers is the health of Carl Crawford. By having Crawford playing all the time in left field, Maddon does not have to juggle outfielders in left and right, which he did in Crawford's absence.

"Knowing that C.C. is well and he is able to go and everything is cool, it does present a different thought. ... I like it," Maddon said.

Maddon enjoyed having Crawford back during the ALDS, where he batted in the fifth spot in the order.

"I believe Carl is a very good RBI guy," Maddon said. " ... RBI situation with two outs -- I like guys that don't hit fly balls. ... When you have a runner in scoring position with two outs, the more often you can stay on the ground or on the line is a better or higher percentage chance of driving in that run, unless you can hit the ball over the wall."

Aside from Crawford being in position to drive in the likes of the No. 1-4 hitters in the Rays' order, Maddon likes the idea of Crawford being on base for the guys at the bottom of the lineup.

"Carl can steal bases and he can get better pitches for the six-hole guy," Maddon said. "I just like him in the middle of this whole thing right now; for me, it tastes pretty good right now."

Closer Troy Percival said he felt fine on Wednesday, so he would be an option to be activated. Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel are also options if the Rays expand their staff to include 11 arms.

The toughest decision if the Rays go to an 11-man staff would be picking the position player who would not be on the roster should their numbers be reduced to 14. Gabe Gross appears to be the closest thing the Rays have had to a right fielder, Ben Zobrist is the only player on the bench who can play shortstop, and Michel Hernandez is the backup catcher. Assuming those three are locks for the roster, the decision comes down to Cliff Floyd, Rocco Baldelli, Willy Aybar and Eric Hinske, all players who contributed greatly during the season.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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