The Rays had a busy weekend, opening their 34-game exhibition slate on Friday with a win over the Twins, and posting a 2-1 record thus far. Many of the regulars have yet to play, including 3B Evan Longoria, SS Matt Duffy, 1B Logan Morrison, RF Steven Souza Jr. as well as most of the front-line pitchers.
They have a busy week ahead, including an appearance today in the Tampa Bay area, with a game at Clearwater against the Phillies, with LHP Blake Snell on the mound.
Here is the rest of their schedule for the week: Tuesday: vs. Twins, 1:05 Wednesday: vs. Phillies, 1:05 Thursday: vs. Red Sox (Fort Myers), 1:05. Friday: Tigers, 1:05. Saturday: Orioles, 1:05 Sunday: at Blue Jays (Dunedin), 1:07
Here are links to our top stories from the weekend:
1. Chris Archer is all business. With only two spring starts before joining Team USA and pitching the March 10 World Baseball Classic opener against Colombia, Archer was sharp and focused in his spring debut Sunday, sticking to his plan to work on fastball command, working in the 93-95 range and hitting most of his spots. He threw four-five sliders during his 28-pitch, two inning outing, giving new C Jesus Sucre a bit of a workout.
2. C Jesus Sucre could be an interesting late entrant into the competition for playing time behind the plate. Sucre, acquired just before camp from Seattle, where he caught ace Felix Hernandez, brings a reputation for soft hands and a strong arm to the field, and thus far has shown a live bat as well. "He looks good,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "He looks like he's been playing. He's obviously in sync at the plate. The pitchers seem to really like throwing to him.'' …
UPDATE, 10:02: Jose De Leon, Shawn Tolleson, Xavier Cedeno are slated to throw live BPs today, last hurdle before game action, likely mid-week.
OF Steven Souza Jr. says surgically repaired left hip is responding well, expects to play in first spring game on Wednesday.
DEVELOPING: After splitting their first two games, the Rays face the Red Sox for the first of five times this spring this afternoon at 1:05 with likely Opening Day starter Chris Archer on the mound.
Archer is pitching the first of two games for the Rays before heading off to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, planning to work two innings today.
Even though the Rays have 30 position players in major-league camp, several are being held back early in the spring as they recover from injuries, so two minor-leaguers, OFs Joe McCarthy and Justin Williams, are in the starting lineup.
Here is the lineup that was posted Saturday in the clubhouse:
Robertson ss Kiermaier dh Weeks 1b Miller 2b Beckham 3b Sucre c Williams rf Field cf McCarthy lf Archer p
And here is the Red Sox lineup:
Holt ss Benintendi lf Craig dh Bradley cf Travis 1b Swihart c Brentz rf Hernandez 2b Dominguez 3b Velazquez p
Three takeaways from the Rays 7-2 loss to the Pirates:
* CF Kevin Kiermaier is already ready to go. Kiermaier could barely contain his excitement over reporting to camp, and he was in full hustle mode in his Saturday debut, trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to get to second when a blooper dropped in and covering lots of ground in the outfield. "KK was flying all around the outfield,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "He's fun to watch.''
* RHP David Carpenter could make a pitch for a bullpen spot. Dumped after a short stint in spring training last year, Carpenter worked hard, including a stint in the independent Atlantic League, to improve his velocity, and it showed. "It definitely did,'' Cash said. "It looked like it was coming better out of his hand than at any point when we saw him the last time.'' Though the stadium radar readings weren't working early, Carpenter said based on the hitters' swings he too felt his velo was better. …
Corey Dickerson is batting leadoff today for the Rays.
After opening the spring slate with a 3-1 win over the Twins on Friday in Fort Myers, the Rays play their home opener at the Charlotte Sports Park today against the Pirates at 1:05.
RHP David Carpenter, a big-league veteran in camp on a minor-league deal, will start for the Rays; RHP Josh Lindblom for the Pirates.
Of note in the Rays lineup, Corey Dickerson is batting leadoff, Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier is in CF, top prospect Willy Adames at short and veteran Rickie Weeks learning 1B.
The team is encouraging fans to arrive early due to new MLB-mandated security procedures that require metal detectors and wanding at the gates, which open at 11. Today there is a free fan fest that includes player autographs, mascot appearances, music and some kids activities.
Here is the Rays lineup, as posted on Friday Dickerson DH Kiermaier cf Weeks 1b Bauers lf Franklin 2b Casali c Adames ss Leonard 3b Peterson rf Carpenter p
Also slated to pitch for the Rays are Dana Eveland, Danny Farquhar, Cory Rasmus, Justin Marks, Jaime Schultz, Neil Wagner and Taylor Guerrieri.
And here is the Pirates split-squad lineup, with ex-Ray John Jaso at 1B: Harrison 2b Mercer ss Jaso 1b Wood dh Terdoslavich rf Osuna lf Gosselin 3b Meadows cf Stallings c Lindblom p
Three takeaways from the Rays 3-1 spring-season opening win over the Twins:
* Tim Beckham can put a jolt into a ball. Beckham came out swinging, lacing a double to center to start the game and then a triple to right-center. That power potential is what keeps the Rays intrigued and keeps him around. Though he started at shortstop Friday, the Rays will have him move not only around the infield but also, for the first time, to the outfield. That versatility will help them, and help him keep a spot on the roster. "Beck came out swinging ... he looked awesome,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "He's not short on power, being able to hit the ball out of the ballpark and hit it in the gaps. Nice to see he was ready to go early on.''
* RHP Ryne Stanek throws hard. Stanek impressed in facing big-league hitters, hittin 99 mph twice and 98 nine times. All told, he had 16 pitches at 97 or above, and four sliders at 90-93, allowing a walk and an infield single in the sixth. "Ryne Stanek, obviously, with the big fastball was impressive,'' Cash said. "You can't overlook the velocity, it's pretty impressive.'' …
Brad Miller will make his frst appearance at second base tonight.
UPDATE, 6:04: RHP Ryan Garton was scratched from the list of pitchers because he is ill. That makes RHP Diego Moreno the only Rays pitcher tonight with big-league experience. ... Cash said 1B Casey Gillaspie will get some playing time early in spring as Logan Morrison probably won't play the first week as he is coming off wrist surgery. ... Cash said Tim Beckham, who started at short on Friday, will definitely get some time in the outfield, as soon as the end of next week, and that him being able to play there will be a big help with roster construction for the season. …
Colby Rasmus' beard was described as "puke" worthy by Deadspin.
OF Colby Rasmus didn't expect to make his first headlines with the Rays because of his scraggly chin beard.
Rasmus chuckled Thursday at all the attention, and Internet hate, he is getting for the chin beard he grew for no specific reason - and shaved off for a good one.
"It's kind of simple really, I'm not really trying to make a statement or nothing. I just started growing it out and it doesn't grow too good up here on my face and I don't like to get the bumps on my neck. It felt good to me,'' he said. "But you know how judgmental people are, they try to tell me what I should feel and how it feels on my face.''
Rasmus - unfortunately, or fortunately if you are in the blog business - still had the beard for the Rays Photo Day on Saturday, so the pictures have circulated widely on the Internet.
The website deadspin.com did a post saying the beard could make you "puke" and the Rays tweeted a photo Wednesday of him clean-shaven.
Rasmus decided a couple days later to shave it off - at the suggestion of his wife, Megan, not so much because she hated it but because it was the lesser of two evils. …
UPDATE, 10:16: Due to the rain, all workouts will be the cages, and the complex is closed to fans. Pitchers will be able to throw off the mounds, and hitters hit off machines or coaches' throwing. ...Longoria was back in the clubhouse and with the team.
DEVELOPING: What is expected to be day-long rains have already started here in Port Charlotte, which likely will keep the Rays off the fields, with pitchers and hitters instead headed to the covered batting cages,
There still will be some business accomplished, as the players have their annual meeting with players union chief Tony Clark and staff.
Today was scheduled to be the fourth day of live batting practice, and additional work on team fundamentals.
3B Evan Longoria missed the last two days of workouts sick.
The Rays made an offer to land Wieters, pitching a one-year deal that gave him the opportunity to rebuild his value for another run at free agency in 2018.
UPDATE, 3:59: The Rays offer was for about $6-million guaranteed, with the chance with all incentives to get past $10-million. ... They are not expected to have interest in Derek Norris, who the Nats now will look to trade.
UPDATE, 12:39: The deal, confirmed by multiple sources, is for $21-million, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, with salaries of $10M in 2017 and $11M in 2018 unless he opts out.
DEVELOPING: The Rays' hopes of landing free-agent C Matt Wieters appear to have ended Tuesday with a report by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports that the former Orioles All-Star is close to a deal with the Nationals.
The deal is said to be for two years, though with an opt-out after the first.
The Rays made an offer to land Wieters, pitching a one-year deal that gave him the opportunity to rebuild his value for another run at free agency in 2018. They knew they were not in position to offer the most money, just what they positioned as the a prime opportunity - to be their everyday catcher, stay in the AL East and closer to his Atlanta home, and work with their talented pitching staff. …
UPDATE, 1:35: RHP Austin Pruitt will start Friday's exhibition opener at the Twins, with RHP Jake Faria, RHP Ryan Garton, RHP Diego Moreno, RHP Ryne Stanek, RHP Hunter Wood, LHP Jose Alvarado and RHP Jeff Walters also slated. ... Cash said Longoria still had a high fever this morning which is why he was sent home. ... Archer took a break after 15 pitches of his live batting practice to simulate an inning break as part of his preparation for the WBC, and then came back to throw 15 more. ... Duffy was pleased to hit with the full team today and said his surgically repaired left heel felt good.
UPDATE, 9:07: Among pitchers scheduled to throw live BP today are Chris Archer, Alex Colome and Brad Boxberger. ... Lots of rain is forecast for Wednesday, which could curtial and limit their workout. ... Though the Rays open the exhibition season on Friday night in Fort Myers, there will be a full workout in Port Charlotte that afternoon, including live BP. .... 3B Evan Longoria was not seen in the clubhouse this morning and could be out sick for a second day. Several players have been feeling sick as a bug seems to be going around. …
Players are always interested in checking out the new gloves,
UPDATE, 2:16: Cash said Longoria texted this morning, said he felt sick, hadn't slept, had a fever, etc. No concern if he misses Tuesday as well.
Also, Cash said they spent time today on the mental approach to baserunning, with 1B coach Rocco Baldelli talking about being more aware of situations.
Cash also praised their work on the pop-up drill, noting Tim Beckham for taking charge while playing SS.
SS Matt Duffy, on a reduced work schedule as he recovers from heel surgery, tracked some pitches during BP and may hit with his group on Tuesday.
UPDATE, 12:30: 3B Evan Longoria missed today's workout and was not at the Port Charlotte facility, team officials saying he was sick. Longoria was in Tampa Sunday night for a season-ticket holder event at the Ducky's restaurant/bar he is part owner of.
Twenty-plus minor-leaguers started voluntary workouts today in advance of their camp formally opening March 4, and it will pay off for a couple who are likely to be used this weekend when the Rays open exhibition play, especially with a night game Friday in Fort Myers and then a home day game on Saturday. …
Evan Longoria got in some early work despite the fog.
After a foggy start to the morning in Port Charlotte, the Rays are set for their first full-squad workout of the spring, taking the field at around 10:30.
Before heading out, there is a meeting in the clubhouse where manager Kevin Cash and front-office officials will address the 65 players in camp.
The highlight - or, if you are a hitter, lowlight - of the day will live batting practice, starting around 12:10, with flamethrowing Jose Alvarado and Ryne Stanek among the pitchers scheduled for work.
Former Rays and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be the featured subject with HBO's Real Sports show debuts on Tuesday night at 10.
Host Bryant Gumbel spent several days, in Tampa with Maddon, who led the Cubs to their first World Series championship since 1908.
From HBO: It’s good to be Joe Maddon. The three-time manager of the year snapped the Chicago Cubs’ 108-year World Series drought after just two seasons at the helm of a franchise long “cursed” to never win again. But the 63-year-old skipper tells REAL SPORTS host Bryant Gumbel he doesn’t believe in curses of yesteryear when they sit down prior to spring training and the pursuit of another title for the iconic franchise. Gumbel and Maddon look back to the riveting 2016 fall classic and discuss the widespread criticism of his use of closer Aroldis Chapman during the series. Gumbel also speaks with Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, who reveals how he lured Maddon to the National League.
Veteran Rays leader 3B Evan Longoria did a spring opening address this morning, showing off his new bearded look. Among the highlights:
* While still not over the trade of 2B Logan Forsythe - saying at the time he was "surprised and upset" - Longoria said he likes the overall winter moves. "I think we were all a little bit upset by the loss of Logan, I was about as vocal as I've ever been on any given topic or move that we've made, but that being said some of the additions we did make are really good.''
* Coming off a 36-homer season that was one of his best, Longoria changed his off-season routine, cutting way back on his hitting, switching from yoga to pilates (with wife Jaime Edmonson) and going back to the Exos workout facility in Arizona. "I took the Jake Arrieta advice and did a bunch of pilates with my wife and did less hitting, a lot less hitting.''
* The reduced workload was the product of changes he made in his swing last season that obviously stuck with him. "My swing has probably felt as good as It's ever felt coming into spring.'' …
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