WHAT NEXT? Rays pitchers take a break during spring training camp Friday in Port Charlotte. [MATT BAKER | Times]
PORT CHARLOTTE – Outfielder Boog Powell reported to Rays camp this morning, leaving right-hander Alex Colome as the only one of the 63 players who hasn’t yet arrived. Colome is being delayed because of visa issues in the Dominican Republic.
Powell, who came to the Rays in the Ben Zobrist trade, got in around 9 last night and said he was excited for the opportunity as a nonroster invite.
“It went from being with the A’s in the big league camp to having an opportunity to come here and get the chance I want,” Powell said.
Pitchers Matt Moore and Jose Dominguez are expected to throw bullpen sessions today, and lefty reliever Jake McGee said he plans to throw from 105 feet for the second time this week.
Former 1B coach George Hendrick made an appearance at camp in his new role as special advisor, and was greeted warmly.
UPDATE, 1:25: The Rays got their work in despite some light rain.
Some further news/notes:
* LHP Drew Smyly did not throw a bullpen session with the other pitchers in his group, but he and manager Kevin Cash said that was by design as he prefers a slightly different program than the Rays use. Smyly will throw bullpens every third day, instead of every other as the other pitchers, and will throw more each time. As a result, he also will make one less exhibition appearance, not debuting until March 10-11.
* Balfour figures to be gone at least 5-7 days, though he told Rays officials he will be able to maintain his exercise and throwing program during his absence.
* Hendrick said he wanted to take the chance to visit and wish the players well since he likely won't be around much, but was okay with the decision. "They allowed me to be in the organization for nine years and we got a lot accomplished,'' Hendrick said. "I've got no complaints, and I'll leave it at that.'' …
NO FUN: Curt Casali blocks a pitch during spring training camp Tuesday in Port Charlotte.
UPDATE, 5:43: Longoria reported and talked a lot about what he called the "mutually beneficial" move by manager Joe Maddon to leave the Rays and join the Cubs, as Longoria said the Rays could use a fresh approach.
Longoria also talked about some changes to his regimen as he seeks to rebound from a disappointing 2014 season.
Look for the full story later tonight on tampabay.com.
UPDATE, 12:18: 1B James Loney reported to camp, which, with Longoria, pushes the total to 57 of the 63.
* Manager Kevin Cash continues to be impressed with the pitchers, noting how many of them already look to be in game shape. "Some guys you sit there and watch and you're like, "Good gosh, he looks like he's ready to go,' '' Cash said. "Watching Archer throw today, it was like he's locked in.''
* There is no update on the status of the two pitchers delayed by visa issues, Ronald Belisario in Venezuela and Alex Colome in the Dominican Republic. …
Drew Smyly on Tuesday clarified a Twitter post he made about the signing of Cuban free agent Yoan Moncada.
Before the Rays headed on the field for the second day of workouts, LHP Drew Smyly was working to clarify a Twitter post he made about the signing of Cuban free agent Yoan Moncada.
After Moncada agreed to a reported $31.5-million signing bonus with the Red Sox, Smyly tweeted:
It's not right that a Cuban 19yr old gets paid 30m and the best 19yr old in the entire USA gets prob 1/6th of that. Everyone should have to go through same process
This morning, after nearly 1,000 retweets, he explained that he wasn't criticizing Moncada or his deal, but the process and system that doesn't allow all such players to be on the free market, given the draft and other rules.
"I think it's awesome that he got that, I'm all for any player making as much money as they can make in this game. So it's nothing against him or any Cuban player,'' Smyly said.
"I was only trying to say everyone else doesn't have those opportunities. So I think there should be some way where everyone, every amateur, has the same opportunity and guidelines. And that's not even America vs. Cuba; Dominican Republic and Venezuela players don't get that. They have never got close to that signing bonus.'' …
Video coordinator Chris "Chico" Fernandez in his new No. 70 jersey for the day
Poking fun at how much time video coordinator Chris "Chico" Fernandez spent hanging with the former manager, the Rays made him wear Joe Maddon's No. 70 on the field Monday, with JR. in the nameplate. "Chico's a good sport,'' new Rays manaer Kevin Cash said. "It was entertaining, I think, for the guys.''
And for Maddon, who was texted several photos at Cubs camp.
Fernandez said he was just following orders; Cash said he'll let Fernandez go back to a number-less pullover on Tuesday.
Check out these beautiful Instagram photos of Rays players and coaches from Tampa Bay Times photojournalist Will Vragovic and behind-the-scenes footage from director of photography Boyzell Hosey from our Meet the Rays video shoot at spring training camp in Port Charlotte.
Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey meets with pitchers and catchers in Port Charlotte on Monday morning, the first official day of spring training.
UPDATE, 11:59: Balfour said he feels fine, that the plan is set up his schedule counting back from opening day, limiting hin to 8-9 spring games as a matter of conserving strength. Will be maybe a week behind the others.
Cash said his first day went well, that his biggest challenge was knowing where to go. "I didn't know what field to be on,'' he said. "So I hung around with the catchers.''
Cabrera said he is open to playing either 2B or SS but would prefer to stick with one. Cash said they will be flexible early in the spring as they have a number of guys to look at but would hope to make a decision sooner or later.
The Rays were in on discussions for Cuban free agent INF Yoan Moncada, but not at anywhere near the final price the Red Sox paid - a reported $31.5-million to Moncada and another $31.5-million in signing fee penalty to MLB.
INF Logan Forsythe also reported to camp, so 54 of the 63 players have reported, with 3B Evan Longoria among those expected on Tuesday. The first full-squad workout is Saturday. …
Emily Austen joins the Sun Sports team covering Rays games.
Emily Austen, a Tampa native, was hired to join the Sun Sports TV crew broadcasting Rays games serving as the in-game reporter, replacing Kelly Nash.
Austen had been working in Boston as a digital host and reporter for the Celtics.com website. A Gaither High graduate, she previously worked for the Golf Channel as a production assistant and from 2012-13 as a sports anchor/reporter for the Fox TV affiliate in Amarillo, Texas. She is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University, where he was a member of the cross-country and track teams.
"I'm coming home,'' Austen posted on her Instagram account. "It's bittersweet to announce that I'm leaving the Boston Celtics to join FOX Florida as the sideline reporter for the Tampa Bay Rays. Boston has been such an amazing experience for me and I want to thank all of the fans for their love during my time here. From the games in the Garden to two championship parades to running the Boston marathon, I'll always have a piece of this city in my heart. I'm so blessed to return to my hometown and continue my career dream with FOX and the Rays. See you soon, Tampa Bay.'' …
Our video report from Port Charlotte, as Rays baseball operations president Matt Silverman and manager Kevin Cash met the media Friday in advance of the opening of spring training, a Will Vragovic production.
New Rays manager Kevin Cash and baseball operations president Matt Silverman are optimistic about the season.
After what they admit was an extraordinarily long off-season given extensive changes, the new leaders of the Rays said they are eager for the focus to shift to the players on the field with the start of spring training.
New baseball operations president Matt Silverman and manager Kevin Cash made clear their optimism for the season and said despite the new look - and low expectations from experts around the game - they expect the team to contend for a playoff spot.
"The end result is a club we have optimism about, a club that we're excited about, that we think can compete for a playoff spot, and that's what we want,'' Silverman said.
There was no major news, Silverman saying their two pitchers recovering from surgery, Jake McGee and Matt Moore, are progressing on schedule with their rehabs. McGee is looking at a late April, possibly early May return, and Silverman said they expect a "June-ish" return to the rotation for Moore. …
New Rays OF Steven Souza takes some mighty cuts in the batting cage Thursday in Port Charlotte,
The Rays don't technically open camp until Monday's first official workout for pitchers and catchers, but nearly half the roster - 30 total - are already in Port Charlotte working out.
Manager Kevin Cash couldn't be more pleased, noting their engery and enthusiasm: "It's pretty cool to see.''
Cash also was impressed with his first real look around the facility, which the Rays moved into in 2009. Cash recalled making two one-game spring visits as a player, with the Yankees in 2009 and the Astros in 2010. "It's awesome,'' he said. "They did a great job designing it. ... This is great.''
Among the position players joinng the workouts today were OF Steven Souza, who said he is confident and ready for the opportunity to make the jump to the big leagues, along with INFs Jake Elmore, Hak-Ju Lee and Allan Dykstra, plus Cs Luke Maile, Justin O'Conner and Bobby Wilson. Overall there were 14 players hitting on the field.
Pitchers joining the workouts included Brad Boxberger, Drew Smyly, Burch Smith, Ernesto Frieri and Everett Teaford.
Also on the field Thursday was former OF and new 1B coach Rocco Baldelli, working on his form in hitting ground balls to infielders. …
The Evan Longoria rubber duck for kids giveaway set for April 19.
The Rays released their promotions schedule and single-game ticket info today, with some of the more interesting items an Evan Longoria rubber duck for kids, an Alex Cobb Gumby, a Chris Archer bobblehead, a Kevin Kiermaier "Outlaw" action figure and a Rays Etch-A-Sketch.
Single game tickets will go on sale Feb. 28 via raysbaseball.com, though there will be a pre-sale for Rays Insider members. (See raysbaseball.com for info on that.) Tickets will be sold through all outlets (Ticketmaster, Tampa team store, Tropicana Field box office, by calling 1-888-FAN-RAYS) starting March 2.
Here are some other highlights of the promo schedule from the team release: …
The Tampa Bay Rays head into the 2015 season with Evan Longoria, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and numerous new faces, including manager Kevin Cash and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Can they upend the Orioles in the highly competitive AL East? Come here to follow Rays news at Tropicana Field and beyond.