The Tampa Bay Rays have most of their roster spots already locked in for 2014.
Unless a player like Sean Rodriguez has a completely terrible spring, there are only two spots available on the 25-man roster. Those openings are for the final bench player and final reliever.
Jeremy Hellickson’s surgery has opened a need for a fifth starter; though that position is a temporary fill until he returns in May.
Jayson Nix is working to solidify himself for the final bench position.
Working to his advantage is his ability to play multiple positions. The majority of his career (300 games out of 405) he has played either third base (179 games) or second base (121 games). In addition, he has appeared in 83 games at shortstop and 22 games as a corner outfielder.
Being able to play multiple positions fits perfectly into the Rays' mold. Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist are other players on the roster who provide manager Joe Maddon with the flexibility to move them around to create the best lineup overall.
So far this spring training, Maddon has been impressed with the effort of Nix, as he explained to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.
This guy is an uber professional. That's all he's about. He just wants to play the game, play it right, be part of a group and understand what the overall philosophy is. I've known him for a week, I feel like I've known him for the last 10 years. Any manager, any organization would love to have him within the group. He is that guy.
Injuries are an important factor that can increase the odds that Nix makes the roster.
The loss of Tim Beckham for the year creates an additional need for a versatile infielder. Rays prospect Hak-Ju Lee is recovering from a knee injury sustained last year in Triple-A Durham.
Another asset he brings to the table is consistent defense. He has a career .967 fielding percentage over his six seasons in the majors. At second base, he excels with a .988 fielding percentage.
One area of concern is the lack of offensive production.
He has a career .218/.290/.358 line. Last season, he had 80 strikeouts in 87 games with the New York Yankees.
Nix will have to edge out other infielders including Logan Forsythe and Vince Belnome, who are also competing in spring training to make the Opening Day roster.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
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