Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Rays
Rays manager Kevin Cash presents the keys to a new Habitat for Humanity home to Lakeba Wallace and her daughter on Thursday, with St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, team president Brian Auld and other club officials and mascot Raymond looking on.
The Rays not only provided funding for the south St. Petersburg house, but helped build it during the five-week process, with 180 team volunteers logging more than 1,000 construction hours, providing the bulk of the work. Land for the home was donated by Bank of America.
"Our mission is to energize our community through the magic of Rays baseball, and this project has been a remarkable testament to that," Auld said. "I'm proud of the efforts of our staff members who worked alongside Lakeba and her family. We cannot be any more excited to hand over the keys."
Per a team release, this was was first time in the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County's 30-year history that a corporate funding partner has also provided more than 90 percent of the manpower hours required to build a home.
The Rays have been having advanced talks with free-agent Tommy Hunter as they seek to add another experienced reliever.
Hunter, 29, is coming off abdominal surgery that could sideline him at the start of the season. The hard-throwing right-hander split 2015 between the Orioles and Cubs, going 4-2, 4.18. Per ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, Hunter sustained the injury late in the season.
The two previous seasons in Baltimore he was 9-7, 2.88 with 15 saves.
The Rays have also talked to free-agent RHP Ryan Webb and others, and discussed trade possibilities. Hunter, who made $4.65-million last season, is also talking to other teams, and may be seeking a multiyear deal.
The Rays have a hole in their bullpen since trading LHP Jake McGee, leaving RHP Alex Colome and LHP Xaiver Cedeno as the most likely setup men to closer Brad Boxberger.
SCOTT KEELER | Times
Jack Thistle and Greg Ickes, workers for TranZPort Services of St. Petersburg, load several trucks with baseball equipment and personal items for the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The trucks are headed to Port Charlotte for spring training.
Tuesday was a busy day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Several trucks were loaded with equipment to be driven to the Ray's spring training home in Port Charlotte.
Pitchers and catchers are set to report on Feb. 21. Position players report on Feb. 25, and the first full workout is Feb. 26.
The first game is against the Washington Nationals at 1:05 p.m. March 2 in Port Charlotte.Full Story
Free-agent RHP Tyler Clippard may not have to look far for a new home.
The Rays are among the teams interested in the Mitchell High product, who finished 2015 with the Mets, going 5-4, 2.92 with 19 saves overall.
Clippard, 31 on Feb. 14, is looking at a pay cut from the $8.3-million he made last season.
The Rays can offer a set-up role, the chance to play near home and the Florida tax break.
The D'backs and Mets are among those also interested.
MARC TOPKIN | Times
Pitcher Blake Snell is at the top of Baseball America's list of the Rays' top 30 prospects.
LHP Blake Snell was the obvious selection at the top of Baseball America's list of the Rays top 30 prospects included in the just-released annual Prospect Handbook. Full Story
SS Willy Adames and RHP Brent Honeywell were also logical choices for the next two slots, but there were some surprises down the rest of the list in the rankings and capsules that are must-reading to keep up on the prospects.
The rankings are compiled before the December Rule 5 draft and some trades, so not all transactions are reflected. 3B Kevin Padlo, acquired from Colorado in the Jake McGee trade, was No. 18 on the Rockies list.
Players who have been in the majors are shown in bold.
Here is the list:
1. LHP Blake Snell
2. SS Willy Adames
3. RHP Brent Honeywell
4. OF/1B Jake Bauers
5. OF Garrett Whitley
6. OF Mikie Mahtook
7. RHP Taylor Guerrieri
8. RHP Jacob Faria
9. 1B Casey Gillaspie
10. SS Daniel Robertson
11. 3B/1B Richie Shaffer
12. 2B Ryan Brett
13. C Justin O'Conner
14. RHP German Marquez (since traded to Rockies)
15. C Chris Betts
16. RHP Chih-Wei Hu
17. OF Justin Williams
18. SS Adrian Rondon
19. RHP Brandon Koch
20. RHP Andrew Bellatti
21. INF/OF Taylor Motter
22. OF Tyler Goeddel (since taken by Phillies in Rule 5 draft)
23. RHP Jamie Schultz
24. RHP Hunter Wood
25. SS Jake Hager
26. C Nick Ciuffo
27. C Luke Maile
28. OF Thomas Milone
29. LHP Enny Romero
30. RHP Jose Mujica
Bonus No. 31. OF Jesus Sanchez
LARA CERRI | Times
Nathan Smallwood, 2, and his mother, Cari Morales, of St. Petersburg, watch as Rays mascot, Raymond, shows off some dance moves among a group of hula hoopers at last year's Rays Fan Fest.
The Rays today released details on the Feb. 27 FanFest, with autograph tickets going on sale next week.
Here is the release from the team:
Autograph passes for the 2016 Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest presented by the Tampa Bay Times will go on sale next week. Rays Fan Fest is scheduled for Saturday, February 27 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Season Ticket Holders are granted early entry to Fan Fest beginning at 10 a.m. Admission and parking are free.
Rays autographs at Fan Fest will be available with the purchase of an autograph pass. These player-specific passes go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 10 exclusively at raysbaseball.com, subject to availability. Rays Season Ticket Holders and fans who sign up for the Rays Insider newsletter at raysbaseball.com by noon on Monday, February 8 will receive information regarding presale opportunities. Autograph passes provide access to a player at a specific time during Fan Fest. A limited number will be sold for each signing player, and all sales must be completed online in advance of Fan Fest. …Full Story
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Drew Smyly was limited to 12 starts last season due to shoulder injuries that forced him to the DL twice.
LHP Drew Smyly won his arbitration case over the Rays and will make $3.75-million this season, the Tampa Bay Times has confirmed.
The Rays offered $3.2-million to Smyly, who made $2.65-million last year while being limited to 12 starts due to shoulder injuries that forced him to the DL twice.
The team and Smyly's agents presented their cases in Phoenix on Tuesday and a three-member panel chose between the two figures and issued a decision today.
The Rays had been 6-0 in hearings over their first 18 seasons, including 5-0 under the Stuart Sternberg ownership.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network was first to report the news.
The team is expected to have a comment later today.Full Story
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Chris Archer and the Rays will be the first major-league team to play in Cuba since 1999, when the Orioles made a visit.
The Rays spring trip to Cuba is close to being finalized, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.
The expected plan is for the team to play one game against the Cuban National Team on March 22 in Havana.
The game may be shown on ESPN.
The Rays, who were chosen among several interested teams via random lottery, will be the first major-league team to play in Cuba since 1999, when the Orioles made a visit. Full Story
After a pre-game ceremony that featured a flag ceremony and greetings from Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Orioles won 3-2 in 11 innings.
The Rays' trip was originally tentatively slated for March 28-30, so it will cause further changes in the Rays spring schedule.
Per the schedule on the team website, the Rays have cancelled a March 21 game against the Braves in Port Charlotte, and added a March 29 game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin and a March 30 game against the Red Sox in Port Charlotte.
The Rays and LHP Drew Smyly argued baseball's first arbitration case Wednesday in Phoenix over a difference of $550,000.
A three-member panel will to announce a decision Thursday between the Rays' offer of $3.2-million and Smyly's request for $3.75-million.
Either way, Smyly gets a solid raise from the $2.65-million he made last season while making only 12 starts due to a shoulder injury that landed him on the DL twice, going 5-2, 3.11.
The Rays were represented by senior vice president/general counsel John Higgins, Smyly was there with his agents.
The Rays have a policy to break off talks and procede to a hearing once figures are exchanged, which eliminates the opportunity to settle at the midpoint.
The Rays are 6-0 in arbitration hearings over their 19 seasons, 5-0 under the Stuart Sternberg regime.
Also, the Rays signed RHP Adam Reifer to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring camp.
Reifer, 29, spent last season pitching in Mexico after most of the previous four at the Triple-A level in the St. Louis, Miami and San Francisco organizations.
The Rays added another pitcher to their spring training roster, signing RH Adam Reifer to a minor league deal.
Reifer, 29, spent last season pitching in Mexico after parts of the previous four at the Triple-A level, most recently with the Giants organization.
He was originally drafted by the Cardinals.
Rays Gold Glove CF Kevin Kiermaier earned the nickname The Outlaw for robbing opponents of hits with his speed, agility and good hands.
He will be tested a different way Thursday, trying to eat a 35-ounce smoked ribeye steak, plus two side salads and dessert, to earn a $4,000 donation from the Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill to the Friends of Joshua House charity.
Kiermaier will make his bid at 6 p.m. at the Clearwater location (2693 Gulf to Bay Blvd.) as part of the nationwide launch of the new menu item.
Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will skip his Saturday induction into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame at Tropicana Field, pulling out due to a conflict with a Super Bowl-related event in California.
Rodriguez, who taped an acceptance speech, is one of six honorees, part of the Dinner with Chris Archer & Friends event, along with Dante Bichette and Alan Trammell, plus pitchers Roy Halladay and Billy Wagner, and Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland.
Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and Rays Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier are among nearly 20 signing autographs. Limited $125 tickets remain; call 727-534-5343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rays for a third straight year will outfit more than 10,000 Tampa Bay area T-ball players and coaches with jerseys and caps.
The Rays say the program, conducted in partnership with Majestic Athletic and Suncoast Credit Union, will involve participants in more than 80 leagues from Citrus to Polk to Charlotte counties and provide about $200,000 in savings. The caps and jerseys feature 18 variations of Rays colors and styles.
The kickoff event to the initiative takes place Feb. 13 at the Trop, when the Rays host a clinic for T-ball parents and coaches featuring manager Kevin Cash, bench coach Tom Foley and pitching coach Jim Hickey. The event starts at 10 a.m. with uniforms, caps, banners and toolkits to be distributed after.
On Feb. 14, the Rays are hosting a free Play Ball Day event, designed to celebrate youth baseball and softball with games and instruction, featuring former Rays Andy Sonnanstine and Mike DiFelice, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The first 1,000 kids will receive a Rays Superhero Cape T-shirt courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times.
New Rays OF Corey Dickerson says he is fully healthy and ready to go full bore for 2016, and that being forced to sit out last year made him even stronger mentally.
Some morning-after items following the Rays busy Thursday:
• New Rays OF Corey Dickerson is billed as a quiet, Southern guy who loves to play baseball and is very competitive. He came across that way in a brief phone conversation from his Mississippi home late Thursday with the Times, saying he was surprised to be traded but excited to be joining the Rays.
"I enjoy winning and I'm a very competitve person and that's something I'll definitely bring to the table every day is my competitiveness and my will to win,'' he said.
Limited to 65 games due to plantar fasciitis and broken ribs, Dickerson said he is fully healthy and ready to go full bore for 2016, and that being forced to sit out last year made him even stronger mentally.
He doesn't have much connection with the Rays, having worked out once with OF Mikie Mahtook when they were post high school draft candidates, and having met OF Kevin Kiermaier at an event for winners of the Heart & Hustle awards.
• Steve Pearce, who grew up and lives in Lakeland, took to Twitter to make it clear just how excited he was to join the Rays: …Full Story
Colorado Rockies left fielder Corey Dickerson is congratulated after hitting solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in September.
UPDATE, 8:31: The deal is now official. McGee and Marquez go to Colorado for Dickerson and 3B Kevin Padlo. Also, the Rays made official their one-year deal with Pearce, who gets $4.75-million.
UPDATE, 7:50: Just talked with McGee, who said he expected trade at some point but figured since not by now that he would've started season with Rays. Has been in organization since '04, said he will be "sad" to leave so many friends he made, mentioning teammates, coaches, training staff and bullpen catcher Scott Cursi.
McGee said it "was kind of crazy" to get the news and start processing all the changes for himself and his family. He did say he will be acclimated to environment of pitching in Colorado having grown up in Reno.
UPDATE, 7:10: Players are being notified, so the deal should be announced shortly.
UPDATE, 6:37: RHP German Marquez is the pitching prospect going to the Rockies, per Fox Sports. If so, that opens a spot on the 40-man roster for Steve Pearce, who agreed last week to a 1-year deal.
UPDATE, 5:55: While it is not clear what other pitcher is going from the Rockies to the Rays, the Times has learned it is not LH Blake Snell, who is Tampa Bay's top prospect. …Full Story