The Tampa Bay Rays have to be prepared for the best pitcher the Oakland A’s have to offer Wednesday evening — even though he might not take the mound in the game in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Oakland ace Frankie Montas is scheduled to start the third game of a four-game series, but nothing is guaranteed. There is even a possibility Montas might not be on Oakland’s roster by game time.

Numerous reports early Tuesday said Oakland was shopping the 29-year-old right-hander for a trade. Reports said the A’s had been in contact with the Chicago White Sox, who need pitching help after injuries to Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn, about a potential deal.

But those talks seemingly hit a standstill later Tuesday. ESPN reported the White Sox had “zero interest” in including rising star Andrew Vaughn in any potential trade. ESPN also reported that a Montas-for-Vaughn deal had been proposed weeks ago, but the White Sox rejected the proposal then and reiterated that stance Tuesday.

It’s possible the A’s could accept another player (or players) in a deal for Montas overnight or during the day Wednesday. But it also is possible Montas could make his second start of the season.

Montas wasn’t sharp on Opening Day. In a 9-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, he allowed five earned runs in five innings. The rumors likely have been weighing on him.

“At the end of the day — here, whatever — I’ve still got to pitch, I’ve still got to get prepared for the season,” he said in advance of that start. “I’m just trying to keep the same mentality.”

But Montas is coming off a strong 2021 season in which he went 13-9 with a 3.37 ERA in 32 starts. If Montas does pitch for Oakland against Tampa Bay, he’ll face worthy opponents on the mound and at the plate.

Tampa Bay is expected to start 24-year-old left-hander Shane McClanahan, who pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings against Baltimore in the season opener. McClanahan is in his second full season as a member of the rotation. Last year, he went 10-6 with a 3.43 ERA. He also recorded 141 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings.

But McClanahan may need some help from a Tampa Bay offense that has been productive this season. McClanahan struggled in two starts against Oakland last season. He failed to record a decision while posting a 5.63 ERA in eight innings.

Tampa Bay’s offense is led by first baseman Ji-Man Choi, who had three hits (including a three-run home run) Tuesday to raise his season average to .615. Tampa Bay phenom Wander Franco also is off to a fast start, hitting .550 through five games. Franco already has three three-hit games.

Tampa Bay’s 9-8 victory Tuesday night was highlighted by Manuel Margot driving in Franco in the 10th inning and came on the heels of a 13-2 loss in the opening game of the four-game series on Monday night. The Rays are 4-1 after sweeping the Baltimore Orioles on opening weekend.

The Rays also have a potential sleeping giant in their lineup. That’s Randy Arozarena. He’s batting only .222, with no home runs. Last season, when he earned the Rookie of the Year award, he hit .274 with 20 home runs and 69 RBIs.

Manager Kevin Cash said Tuesday night’s win did wonders in rebounding from Monday’s loss.

“The personalities and the characters in that (locker) room can flush a game like (Monday’s) and bounce right back with a game like this,” he said.

— Field Level Media