Live from Port Charlotte: Already hopping
Starters Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann go for a run Monday
at the Charlotte Sports Park. Photo by James Borchuck.
The Rays don't officially open spring training until Wednesday, but there was plenty of activity at the Charlotte Sports Park on Monday as 19 players worked out on the fields, and a 20th joined them later in the weight room.
Manager Joe Maddon - wearing one of his 2008 edition 9=8 T-shirts - stopped by and was impressed with the large turnout, organized by head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and strength and conditioning coach Kevin Barr. Three members of the starting rotation - Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson - were among them.
"I was just here to drop some stuff off and get my office settled in and I saw a bevy of pitchers walking out so I had to come out and see what was going on,'' Maddon said. "I'm really impressed. ... Does it surprise me? No. But it's really nice to see actually, that they're out here doing this. When you're self-starters like this it makes everything so much easier.''
Maddon admitted that he'd probably need to carry a roster for the first few days as he tries to learn all the new faces, and joked that eadch pitcher should call out their name before throwing.
"It's kind of exciting,'' Maddon said. "It's exciting to get some new guys in here. The way they read on paper is very good so I'm really excited to see them. We'll see how it all breaks out. But I love the enthusiasm, man. This is awesome.''
Because of the large number of new players, and the higher than usual number overall, 61 total, including 31 pitchers - Maddon said he, the coaches and front office will probably have to put a little weight on evaluations of spring performance.
The other players working out early also included pitchers Brian Baker, Jonah Bayliss, Alex Cobb, Rob Delaney, Brandon Gomes, Dirk Hayhurst, Jake McGee, Ricky Orta, Cesar Ramos, Adam Russell and Cory Wade; catcher Craig Albernaz; infielders Tim Beckham and Russell Canzler; and outfielders Chris Carter and Desmond Jennings. Pitcher Matt Bush joined them later.
Home clubhouse/equipment manager Chris Westmoreland has the place looking sharp, with Manny Ramirez getting the three-locker "suite" that Rafael Soriano had last year, while OF Desmond Jennings got Carl Crawford's old locker and Johnny Damon will have the corner spot occupied the last two springs by Pat Burrell.
Also, workers are installing AstroTurf on the half-field here so the infielders can practice on the same new surface that has been installed at Tropicana Field.