By: Chris Dommermuth
Both had opposite aspects manager Joe Maddon wanted them to work on. Brignac, offense, and Rodriguez, defense
Brignac has been asked to improve his plate discipline and ability to make solid contact. He batted just .193 with 1 HR and 10 RBI’s in 264 plate appearances. He also walked just 10 times while striking out 63 times.
He has done just that. Limited by plantar fasciitis, Brignac still managed to hit .286 in the Spring. His glove has never been the problem, he’s been more then solid at fielding his position.
“We said coming in that we were not going to evaluate him on the numbers, we were going to evaluate him on the quality of at-bats and what he’s done within the at-bats, and we’ve been pleased in that regard,” hitting coach Derek Shelton said.
The other side is Sean Rodriuguez, who was told he needed to improve his fielding. Rodriguez played 2nd base most of his minor league career, putting up solid offensive numbers. With the Rays committed to putting Ben Zobrist at 2nd at least 120 games this season, Rodriguez will be forced to make the team as a SS. Rodriguez played 60 games last season at SS.
Rodriguez also struggled last season hitting just .223 with 8 HR’s and 38 RBI’s. Clearly better then Brignac, but also must improve.
Both have apparently improved enough that Joe Maddon has yet to come to a decision. The Rays will have until 5 P.M. on Wednesday to figure out who they’ll send down or designate for assignment.
The Rays have 13 position players in camp, the number they will take into the season. Should they add an outfielder, one has to go. Elliot Johnson, who can give the Rays depth in the outfield, is out of options. Brignas has minor league options left which make it most likely he gets sent down in the Rays can’t find room.
Joe Maddon has spoken about a possible platoon. We all know he isn’t opposed to mixing and matching lineups so that’s a definite possibility, however you would still have 14 position players with some of them no longer having options.
The Rays should go with their philosophy of pitching and defense and give Brignac the reigns off the shortstop position. Rodriguez would make for a nice utility player because he can play all infield position and a little OF.
Brignac’s bat does worry me some but Rodriguez hasn’t hit enough at the Major League level to give him the position based on his bat. Especially with shortstop being the most important position defensively, besides catcher, on the field.
We may yet to have the decision on who the shortstop, but one thing is for sure, this will be a fluid situation throughout the season. Both players have the opportunity in front of them. Who will take the opportunity?
UPDATE: Sean Rodriguez was announced as the teams primary shortstop Wednesday. Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac will back him up, most likely getting occasional starts against righties.