So now that that football game is over, the countdown is on to the start of spring training.
For the Rays, it begins early next week in Port Charlotte, with a report/administrative day on Feb. 13 and the first workout for — cue the magic words — pitchers and catchers on Feb. 14. (Valentine's Day with Kevin Cash!)
With the trade of franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria; a dozen players, led by Alex Cobb, off the roster via free agency; and a makeover of the coaching and athletic training staff, there will be a number of new faces in different places.
And more changes are coming, as the Rays have yet to address ownership's directive to cut payroll — they are actually up a few million from this time last year. That means some veterans from the group of closer Alex Colome; infielder Brad Miller; starters Jake Odorizzi or, less likely, Chris Archer; and outfielders Corey Dickerson and/or Denard Span are still going to be moved.
One other thing: Rest assured there will be spring training as planned. The players union Sunday put out a statement clarifying that despite some chatter last week and onerous comments from individual agents in response to the cool free-agent market, there are no plans for a spring boycott: "No such threat has been made, nor has the union recommended such a course of action."
Rays key dates
Wednesday: Announcement/reveal of 20th anniversary patch, promotions, plans.
Saturday: Fan Fest, Tropicana Field, 11-4, free admission and parking.
Feb. 14: First workout for pitchers and catchers, Port Charlotte.
Feb. 19: First full-squad workout, Port Charlotte.
Feb. 23: First exhibition games — vs. Pirates in Port Charlotte and at Orioles in Sarasota, 1:05 p.m.
March 29: Regular-season opener vs. Red Sox, Tropicana Field, 4 p.m.
Rays spring roster (unofficial)
Based on returning players, announced additions and a few reported signings, here is our unofficial compilation of the Rays spring roster. While deep in pitching and dotted with prospects, the Rays are obviously short in some key areas — a starting first baseman (it's Brad Miller by default as of now), overall power and experienced relievers. Here is how it looks as of now, with nonroster invitees marked with an X:
Jose De Leon
x- Cody Hall
Steven Souza Jr.
Rays spring schedule
Spring training tickets are on sale; see raysbaseball.com/spring or call 888-326-7297 for more information. Home games are played at the Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte.
Feb. 23 (ss) Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
(ss) at Orioles, 1:05 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
Feb. 25 at Twins, 1:05 p.m.
Feb. 26 Blue Jays, 1:05 p.m.
Feb. 27 Orioles, 1:05 p.m.
Feb. 28 at Twins (ss), 1:05 p.m.
March 1 Orioles, 1:05 p.m.
March 2 Phillies, 1:05 p.m.
March 3 at Tigers, 1:05 p.m.
March 4 at Yankees, 1:05 p.m.
March 5 Off
March 6 Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
March 7 Orioles, 1:05 p.m.
March 8 at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
March 9 Twins, 1:05 p.m.
March 10 at Phillies, 1:05 p.m.
March 11 Twins, 1:05 p.m.
March 12 Off
March 13 at Phillies, 1:05 p.m.
March 14 at Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
March 15 Twins, 1:05 p.m.
March 16 at Twins, 1:05 p.m.
March 17 at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
March 18 Tigers, 1:05 p.m.
March 19 at Yankees, 6:35 p.m.
March 20 at Orioles, 6:05 p.m.
March 21 Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
March 22 at Blue Jays (ss), 1:05 p.m.
March 23 (ss) Blue Jays, 1:05 p.m.
(ss) at Orioles., 1:05 p.m.
March 24 at Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
March 25 Yankees, 1:05 p.m.
March 26 at Tigers, 1:05 p.m.
March 27 Tigers at Tropicana Field, 12:35 p.m.
March 28 Workout
March 29 Season opener vs. Red Sox at Trop
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays