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Rays sign Ronald Belisario, close to adding Alexi Casilla

The Rays have signed veteran RH reliever Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal.

He will come to spring training and compete for one of the two open spots in their bullpen. He was previously with the Dodgers and spent last season with the White Sox, going 4-8 with a 5.56 ERA and 8 saves.

They are also likely to sign veteran INF Alexi Casilla, who would join the field competing for a middle infield spot. 

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Rays to again provide uniforms for area T-ball leagues

A sample of the T-ball jerseys created by Majestic Athletic.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

A sample of the T-ball jerseys created by Majestic Athletic.

The Rays for the second year will provide jerseys and caps to more than 5,500 T-ball players and coaches throughout the Tampa Bay area and all the way down to Charlotte County, and conduct several clinics.

The program launches next weekend, with the distribution of uniforms and staging of several clinics. New Rays manager Kevin Cash, a product of Tampa's Northside Little League, will address a coaches' clinic on Saturday Feb. 7  at the Trop, and Rays pitchers Grant Balfour and Jake Odorizzi will conduct clinics for players on Sunday, Feb. 8.

The jerseys, created by official MLB uniform supplier Majestic Athletic, will feature 18 variations  of Rays colors and styles.

The Rays say the program will save the leagues approximately $115,000, allowing them to use funds to instead repair and improve their fields and facilities, purchase new equipment and upgrade concession areas. …

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New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred encouraged, optimistic about Rays stadium situation

Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and that he shares that view.

The New York Times

Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and that he shares that view.

UPDATE, 2:46: Sternberg said he and Manfred are very much on the same page: "The new commissioner is in tune with my feelings and intentions. I stand behind his characterization.''

The new commisioner is in tune with my feelings and intentions. I stand behind his characterization.

DEVELOPING: Though talks between the Rays and St. Petersburg officials on the stadium issue are at a standstill after the failed vote, the view from new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred's office in New York is encouraging about a new facility and the Tampa Bay market overall. …

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Rays have private workout for Cuban prospect Moncada

The Rays most likely can't afford to sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, but they took a look at him Wednesday Thursday during a private workout at the Trop anyway.

Moncada showed impressive power in front of a group of team scouts and officials, including baseball operations president Matt Silverman and manager Kevin Cash,

Still awaiting clearance to sign with an MLB team, Moncada, 19, is expected to get a deal worth at least  $30- to $40-million. He has worked out for several other teams, a list that reportedly includes the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Padres, Rangers and Brewers, per mlb.com's Jesse Sanchez, with others interested.

Moncada is considered among the best players to leave Cuba.

Silverman acknowledged last week they had interest but were not likely "to be the winners of an auction.''

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Rays non-roster inviitees to spring training

Here are the non-roster invitees announced as of Jan. 29 by the Rays, with more expected:

RHP Jhan Marinez

LHP Everett Teaford

C Mayo Acosta

C Bobby Wilson

1B Allan Dykstra

INF Juan Francisco

INF/OF Eugenio Velez

OF Corey Brown

OF Joey Butler

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ESPN's Keith Law ranks Rays farm system 23rd again

Baseball America ranks shortstop Willy Adames as the Rays' third-best prospect.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Baseball America ranks shortstop Willy Adames as the Rays' third-best prospect.

UPDATE, 5:29: Only two Rays made Law's overall list of top 100 prospects, C Justin O'Conner at No. 78 and SS Daniel Robertson at No. 83.

DEVELOPING: Though Rays officials feels they have made significant additions to their farm system via the series of off-season trades, ESPN's Keith Law is apparently not impressed.

Law released his annual pre-spring rankings Wednesday and had the Rays 23rd, the same spot they were last year; the Cubs are No. 1.

The column is behind the ESPN Insider paywall, but the gist of Law's explanation is that while the Rays added "some talent" through trades, their draft record "has been among the most disappointing" in the game and they have to get more big-leaguers with their top picks.

Baseball America's organizational rankings have not yet been released; they rank a pair of players acquired this off-season as the Rays top two prospects, and two others brought in since July in the top six: 1. OF Steven Souza, 2. SS Daniel Roberston, 3. SS Willy Adames and 6. SS Adrian Rondon.











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Matt Moore "in a good spot" after throwing from mound

LHP Matt Moore reached the next significant milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery Tuesday, throwing off the mound for the first time.

Moore made 15 throws from about halfway up the bullpen mound at the Trop and said it couldn't have gone better.

"It felt pretty good," he said. "I've done a lot of dry reps and a lot of towel stuff (where he goes through his pitching motion with a towel in his hand rather than a ball). To feel on line going toward home plate and getting on the hill, it was good to have that feeling."

Moore, 25, is targeting a return to the Rays rotation sometime in June. He had the surgery April 22 after leaving his second start with elbow discomfort.

The rehab process can be a grind, but Moore said he is doing well mentally and physically.

"I would have thought a while ago I would have been nervous, but I was looking forward to it," Moore said. "And I felt like I had a lot more that could have come out. That's a feeling I've had the last month or so, and that's a feeling I like to have. I think we're in a good spot right now." 

 

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New commissioner Manfred willing to help Rays, but says stadium is a "local issue"

 While calling it a "local issue,'' new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he will do whatever asked to help the Rays, as well as the Oakland A's, get their stadium situations resolved.

  "I think it's always important to bear in mind that stadium construction is fundamentally a local issue - the owner, the local government, the local communities have to be committed to the project,'' Manfred told MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM.
  
"I share your view that Tampa and Oakland are situations that need to be addressed, and believe me I will be making myself available to both owners, both clubs to play whatever role they want me to play in helping them get their situations resolved because I do think both of them are really important to the game.''

  Manfred previously spoke highly of Montreal, which has been speculated on as a potential relocation site, telling the New York Times it is "a great city" and that, "I think with the right set of circumstances and the right facility, it's possible.''

 

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Jake McGee throws for first time since elbow surgery

Rays LHP Jake McGee took the latest step in his recovery from December elbow surgery, playing catch for the first time since on Monday at the Trop.

McGee is aiming for a mid- to late-April return.

He had arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body in his left elbow.

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Sandberg to Durham as Rays set staffs

UPDATE, 5:19: The Rays have released the full staffs, with a couple of other interesting notes: Longtime - and very well-respected - Rays minor-league catcher Craig Albernaz will make his coaching debut as a member of the staff at rookie-level Princeton, and Jorge Moncada was promoted to assistant pitching coordinator to fill the void left by Kyle Snyder's promotion to Triple-A Durham.

DEVELOPING: The Rays are in the process today of announcing their minor-league coaching staffs.

As we've been reporting, Jared Sandberg has been promoted to Triple-A Durham to replace manager Charlie Montoyo, who joined the big-league staff.

Michael Johns moves up to advanced Class A Charlotte to take Sandberg's place. 

Reinaldo Ruiz will be the new manager at Class A Bowling Green.

Sandberg will be joined in Durham by new pitching coach Kyle Snyder and returning hitting coach Dave Myers.

More info to come.

Here are that staffs that have been announced:

AAA DURHAM
Manager: Jared Sandberg
Pitching coach: Kyle Snyder
Hitting coach: Dave Myers
Athletic trainer: Mike Sandoval
Conditioning coach: Bryan King …

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Ben Zobrist thanks Rays, fans in heartfelt ad

The ad placed by the Zobrists appeared in Sunday's Times.

The ad placed by the Zobrists appeared in Sunday's Times.

After a week to come to grips with the trade to Oakland, former Rays INF/OF Ben and Julianna Zobrist shared their feelings about his former Rays bosses and teammates, and the Tampa Bay fans, in a heartfelt ad that ran in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times.

 

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Ryan Dempster's "Top 10 Reasons Cubs Hired Joe Maddon" from Rays gets laughs in Chicago

The annual Cubs convention is an even bigger deal than usual this year, with the hiring of former Rays manager Joe Maddon among the reasons for the increased excitement. And former Cubs pitcher and current front office special assistant Ryan Dempster had some fun with Maddon - and indirectly the Rays - in a Letterman-style Top 10 list he performed Friday night (courtesy mlb.com):

"The Top 10 reasons the Cubs hired Joe Maddon:"

10. "We misheard and thought he knew (actor) Eva Longoria."

9. "We're trying to set the Guinness Book of World Records for most fired managers."

8. "We needed someone who would take the leftover Harry Caray glasses."

7. "The Cubs' bus keeps breaking down so we figured, 'Hey, we can use his RV.' "

6. "Most managers take shots from the media; Joe Maddon buys shots for the media."

5. "We have a young team here in Chicago, and if 60 is the new 40, well, we need someone to manage all of our toddlers."

4. "(Model wife of former Cub/current Rays OF David DeJesus) Kim DeJesus told us to."

3. "He's the son of a plumber and, let's just face it: the Wrigley bathrooms need a ton of work."

2. "We just feel bad for anyone who lives in Florida."

1. "Well, because of all the other managers we tried to tamper with, none of them called us back.''

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Rays arbitration update: Jennings first, all cases settled, Cobb gets $4M

Times files

UPDATE, 1:43: Smyly, who was eligible for the first time as a Super Two, settled for $2.65M, plus the chance at an additional $25,000 if he makes 28 starts and $25,000 more if he gets to 30.

UPDATE, 1:38: Several of the players who reached settlements have performance bonuses included in their 1-year deals. The biggest is Rivera, who can get an extra $200,000 based on the number of games he starts at catcher, up to 105. McGee can get an additional $25,000 for 65 and for 70  games, Forsythe an extra $25,000 for 400 plate appearances.

UPDATE, 1:23: The Rays ended up settling with Cobb for $4-million, while McGee got $3.55M, Jaso got $3.175M, Rivera got $1.2M, and Forsythe got $1.1M. Still haven't seen the number on Smyly.

UPDATE, 1:07: The Rays reached settlements with the six remaining players on one-year deals, so there will be no cases headed to a hearing. We'll post the settlement figures as we get them.

UPDATE, 12:41. RHP Kevin Jepsen agreed to a one-year deal at $3.025-million. Jepsen, acquired for OF Matt Joyce, had a 2.63 ERA through 74 appearances with the Angels. …

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Rays Sternberg named to MLB Executive Council

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg was named to Major League Baseball's Executive Council.

Selection to the powerful eight-member panel that advises the commissioner - and soon to be new commissioner Rob Manfred - on major issues is the latest indication of Sternberg's stature among owners. He previously has served on several top committees, including as chairman of the Diversity Oversight Committee.

"This is the beginning of a new epoch for the sport, new ideas and new approaches,'' Sternberg said. "I am pleased to have been chosen to participate at this exciting time.''

Sternberg's appointment comes at an interesting time as resolution of the Rays stadium issue will be one of the issues Manfred will take on from outgoing commissioner Bud Selig.

Also named to the council, for four-year terms, were Rangers co-owner Ray Davis, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt, Braves chairman Terry McGuirk, Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, Twins CEO Jim Pohlad, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. DeWitt will chair the Council.

 

 

 

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Nats GM confident ex-Ray Escobar won't be a problem

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo made it quite clear on a conference call with Washington area reporters today he was quite pleased to get former Rays SS Yunel Escobar from the A's, reiterated plans to play him at second base, said they were confident Escobar would not cause problems in their clubhouse and attributed his poor defense last season to injuries and the Tropicana Field turf. …

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