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Cobb scratched from minor-league start due to back tightness

Rays RHP Alex Cobb was scratched from a planned minor-league intrasquad start this morning in Port Charlotte due to lower back tightness.

Manager Kevin Cash said they did not expect the issue to disrupt their season-opening pitching plans, as Cobb is slated to pitch Game 3 on April 5.

"I don't think it changes anything,'' Cash said.

Sunday was to be Cobb's long start of the spring, when he was to throw 100+ pitches, and then make an abbreviated outing on Friday in Clearwater.

The Rays probably won't know until seeing how he feels on Monday how best to proceed, but Cobb could just skip this start, pitch Friday and head into the season.

Cobb said via text he "definitely could have pitched today" and "this is really nothing.''

 

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Rays report: Andriese vs. Yankees in Tampa, 1:05

UPDATE, 1:17: The addition of C Derek Norris to the 40-man roster was made official as the Rays placed Rule 5 pick RHP Kevin Gadea on the 60-day DL due to right elbow tendinitis. Gadea was going to be returned to the Mariners when he developed a sore elbow; he now will get major-league pay and service time while on the DL.

UPDATE, 12:14: 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Logan Morrison, bench/infield coach Tom Foley and manager Kevin Cash all gave positive reviews of their first experience on the new turf at Tropicana Field, noting that it looked better and played true.

UPDATE, 12:02: The Rays lineup, with Robertson replacing Tim Beckham, who was scratched due to irritation in his hip flexor that he started feeling after Saturday's game:

Dickerson lf
Kiermaier cf
Longoria 3b
Miller 2b
Morrison 1b
Weeks dh
Robertson ss
Sucre c
Smith rf
Andriese p

UPDATE, 9:48: Haven't seen Rays lineup but here is how Yankees look for today:
Ellsbury cf
Hicks lf
Bird 1b
Carter dh
Judge rf
Romine c
Torreyes 3b
Tejada 2b
Kozma ss
Mitchell p …

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3 takeaways from Rays 7-5 loss to Red Sox

3 takeaways from Rays 7-5 loss to Red Sox

* LHP Blake Snell showed improvement, but still has to get better. The second-year lefty apparently got the message that his bosses were tired of seeing him pitch poorly and then say he knows what he needs to do but has to do it. He showed some of that over 4 2/3 on Saturday, throwing his fastball with more conviction and using his slider as a weapon. But he made a big mistake in allowing a three-run homer to Pablo Sandoval, and throwing 92 pitches without getting through five innings isn't good enough, and he seemed to know that, too. "I was happy with the way I attacked the zone,'' Snell said. "I felt like I took a stride, I felt like I was more into it, more believing in what I have, more aggressive. Definitely taking that positive, knowing there's a bunch I still need to work on.'' …

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Rays make official deal with free-agent C Derek Norris

The Rays on Saturday made official the signing of free-agent C Derek Norris, who got a one-year deal for $1.2-million plus up to $800,000 in incentives.

Norris, 28, was released last week by the Nationals, who out-bid the Rays to sign Matt Wieters.

The Rays have to create space to add Norris to the 40-man, and will announce a corresponding move later. Moving RHP Kevin Gadea or C Wilson Ramos to the 60-day DL seem easiest.

With Norris expected to be their starting catcher and Jesus Sucre in line to be the other, the Rays are looking at sending either Curt Casali or Luke Maile to Triple-A and possibly trade the other.

Signing Norris gives the Rays a more experienced option behind the plate, as they otherwise would be picking two catchers from the group of Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre, who was acquired just before spring training from the Mariners. Norris has made 446 big-league starts for Oakland and San Diego, Casali has made 116, Sucre 77 and Maile 43.

He chose the Rays over several other teams based on the opportunity for more playing time. …

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Rays Colby Rasmus expected to open season on DL

Rays OF Colby Rasmus said this morning he expects to open the season on the DL.

Though Rasmus has been playing in games as the DH, he said Saturday morning he doesn't feel good enough in recovery from hip and core muscle repair surgery yet to play the field at full speed, which the Rays have said is a prerequisite.

"We've been trying to progress up to that point but it's probably looking like I'm going to start on the DL,'' Rasmus said. "It's not nothing major but I don't feel that I'm ready to run something down in the gap for nine innings. I've been doing a lot of outfield work and it feels pretty good but I don't think I'm quite to that point yet.''

With DL stays shortened to 10 days this season, and backdating limited to three, Rasmus could miss as few as six games over the first seven days of the season, which opens next Sunday.

"We'll just have to see how it goes day by day,'' he said. "I had hoped that I would be able to maybe DH, but that's not what they're looking for me to do.''

Manager Kevin Cash confirmed that is the current plan.

"Colby has made huge strides here the last couple days,'' he said. "We've all spent time talking with him. I think it's a pretty good thought process that he has saying that when he comes out and plays the field he wants to make sure he feels good and can go track a ball down in the gap and he's just not quite there yet. He will continue to get his at-bats DH-ing and just continue taking it day to day and see how he does. ... We're more optimistic, and I think he is, too, that it's sooner than later if he does start with that scenario.''

With Rasmus out, OF Mallex Smith seems likely to make the opening day roster, and probably start in leftfield on opening day, with Corey Dickerson as the DH. …

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Rays report: Snell faces Red Sox in Port Charlotte, 1:05

UPDATE, 10:56: Here is the Red Sox lineup:
Castillo cf
Sandoval 3b
Young dh
Rutledge 1b
Hernandez 2b
Swihart c
Selsky rf
Brentz lf
Marrero ss
Haviland p

UPDATE, 10:33: Rasmus is now out of the lineup, with Logan Morrison as the DH and leadoff hitter.

UPDATE: 10:08: Colby Rasmus said, and Cash confirmed, that he is expected to start the season on the DL as he is not yet ready to play the field after recovering from hip and core muscle repair surgery and wants to be sure he will be at full speed before doing so. That should be good news for OF Mallex Smith to make the opening day roster. ....  No official word yet on Norris signing, but could be later today. Rays Cash said, hypothetically, it means three guys competing for two jobs - Casali, Maile and Sucre - are now doing so for one. ... Cash said the infielders plus outfielders Corey Dickerson, Mallex Smith and Kevin Kiermaier will work out at the Trop on Sunday morning to check out the new turf, then head over to Tampa to play the Yankees. .. Noting some recent sloppy play, Cash said, it's time to clean some stuff up.'' …

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Three takeaways from Rays' 4-0 loss to the Pirates

Erasmo Ramirez pitched four innings and was sharp throughout.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Erasmo Ramirez pitched four innings and was sharp throughout.

3 takeaways from the Rays 4-0 loss to the Pirates:

1. RHP Erasmo Ramirez looked like his old self, which means he was smiling after his outing, and why not?

Ramirez pitched four innings and was sharp throughout. He was on a 60-pitch limit and finished his workday with 58, 39 of which were strikes. Ramirez looked like he did last season before the workload got to him.

That’s good news for the Rays, who will need a long reliever in the bullpen, especially with the way LHP Blake Snell has struggled this season and their tendency to limit RHP Matt Andriese’s innings.

It’s also good news if the Rays are looking to ship Ramirez for a right-handed hitting outfielder. The scouts in the stands at LECOM Park, and there were plenty, had to like what they saw, as well.

2. RHP Chase Whitley continued to pitch well, which is good because he might be Plan B for the long man if the Rays do trade Ramirez during the final week of camp.

Whitley would add an experienced arm to the bullpen plus the ability to handle a start. He has started 17 games during his major league career, 16 during his two seasons with the Yankees and one last September with the Rays after he returned from Tommy John surgery.  …

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Rays to sign catcher Derek Norris

The deal with Derek Norris, which is pending a physcial, will be for one year, with no option.

Washington Post

The deal with Derek Norris, which is pending a physcial, will be for one year, with no option.

UPDATE, 4:47: The major-league deal is for $1.2-million guaranteed, plus $800,000 in performance bonuses.

DEVELOPING: The Rays are signing free-agent C Derek Norris, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

The deal with Norris, which is pending a physcial, will be for one year, though the Rays could retain control of Norris in 2018 when he'd be eligible for arbitration for a final time. The total value is expected to be worth less than $2-million.

They will have to create space on the 40-man roster once the deal is finalized.

Norris was released last week by the Nationals - because they signed Matt Wieters whom the Rays pursued - and was paid about $700,000 in termination pay, one-sixth of his $4.2-million arbitration contract.

Signing Norris gives the Rays a more experienced option behind the plate, as they otherwise would be picking two catchers from the group of Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre, who was acquired just before spring training from the Mariners. Norris has made 446 big-league starts for Oakland and San Diego, Casali has made 116, Sucre 77 and Maile 43.

He chose the Rays over several other teams based on the opportunity for more playing time. …

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Rays report: Ramirez starting on bullpen day in Bradenton, 1:05

Erasmo Ramirez is listed as the starter for this afternoon's game in Bradenton.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Erasmo Ramirez is listed as the starter for this afternoon's game in Bradenton.

UPDATE, 9:35: Change in pitching plans for the Rays, apparently, as Erasmo Ramirez is now listed as the starter. That makes sense, as he is a potential trade candidate since he may have more value to another team as a starter than the to the Rays as a middle reliever, and it also gets him stretched out for multi-inning work or even as a fill-in starter for the Rays.

Here is the lineup:

Morrison 1b,
Robertson ss,
Dickerson LF,
Miller 2b,
Casali c,
Smith cf,
McKenry DH,
Peterson RF,
Sole 3b,
Erasmo p

No sign Friday morning of SS Matt Duffy, who went to Charlotte on Thursday to have his left heel checked by the doc who did his Sept. surgery.

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back in beautiful Bradenton today to face the Pirates for the third time in five days, first pitch at 1:05.

RHP Diego Moreno, a non-roster candidate for a bullpen job, will start in what will be a day of showcasing relievers. Also slated to pitch today are Danny Farquhar, Erasmo Ramirez and Chase Whitley.

Big names on the travel roster include Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison, Daniel Robertson, and Brad Miller.

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Rays talking to free-agent catcher Derek Norris

Derek Norris, right, was released last week by the Nationals.

Washington Post

Derek Norris, right, was released last week by the Nationals.

The Rays are among the teams talking with free-agent C Derek Norris, that Tampa Bay Times has learned, but according to a source as of Thursday night "are on the outside looking in.''

Norris was released last week by the Nationals - because they signed Matt Wieters whom the Rays pursued - and was paid about $700,000 in termination pay, one-sixth of his $4.2-million arbitration contract. He is free to sign elsewhere and negotiate his best deal.

Signing Norris, 28, would give the Rays a more experienced option behind the plate, as they otherwise would be picking two catchers from the group of Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre, who was acquired just before spring training from the Mariners. Norris has made 446 big-league starts for Oakland and San Diego, Casali has made 116, Sucre 77 and Maile 43.

Norris is coming off a rough offensive year in San Diego, where he hit .186 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs, though only a .255 on-base percentage and .583 OPS. While his offense has been in a two-year decline since his 2014 All-Star season with Oakland, his defensive work, specifically his pitch framing, has improved. …

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Three takeaways from Thursday's 5-5 tie against the Yankees

Shawn Tolleson faced seven batters Thursday and retired three while allowing two runs on two hits and two walks.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Shawn Tolleson faced seven batters Thursday and retired three while allowing two runs on two hits and two walks.

3 takeaways from Thursday’s 5-5 tie with the Yankees

1. The Rays are expecting RHP Shawn Tolleson to be a big part of the bullpen but the former closer for the Rangers continues to struggle. His velocity, which should be in the mid-90s, is in the low 90s. He faced seven batters Thursday and retired three while allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. He did strike out a batter but allowed a home run to Ronald Torreyes.

Manager Cash called Tolleson out after the game, saying he is concerned and that Tolleson needs to get going during the last week of camp. Tolleson, who has struggled with back spasms this spring, has a 7.20 ERA in five appearances.

The Rays are looking at Tolleson as a veteran arm for the bullpen, something they covet. But his struggles could open the door for rookies RHP Austin Pruitt or RHP Jaime Schultz to make the squad.

2. How much fun would it be to see Jumbo Diaz coming out of the bullpen this season? He’s 6-foot-4 and listed at 280 pounds, though he looks like he tips the scale at 300.

He has a big fastball and enough big league experience to be considered a veteran arm.  …

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Archer shares thoughts on USA's title at WBC

Chris Archer pitched 5-2/3 innings earlier Wednesday night against the Orioles in Sarasota.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Chris Archer pitched 5-2/3 innings earlier Wednesday night against the Orioles in Sarasota.

Chris Archer, the man who began Team USA’s run through the World Baseball Classic on March 10 with four perfect innings against Columbia, did not stay up Wednesday night to see the final out of USA’s win against Puerto Rico in the WBC championship game.

Archer, who pitched 5-2/3 innings earlier in the evening against the Orioles in Sarasota, said he called it a night with USA up 8-0, which remained unchanged.

When asked Thursday morning about USA’s first WBC championship, Archer said, “It’s fantastic. I think it shows the level of talent, the depth of the talent that USA had. People were upset because Player X, Y or Z wasn’t there, and we still won. People were upset because (Clayton) Kershaw and (Madison) Bumgarner weren’t there, but starting pitchers had a 1-something ERA. The Latin countries, their elite talent is equal, but the depth of the talent for USA is amazing, phenomenal.” 

Archer was on schedule to pitch Wednesday night, but Team USA officials told him he wasn’t needed.  …

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Boxberger to begin season on disabled list

Brad Boxberger will miss the start of the season because of soreness in his lat/back that resurfaced while throwing live batting practice last week.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Brad Boxberger will miss the start of the season because of soreness in his lat/back that resurfaced while throwing live batting practice last week.

It is now official: Brad Boxberger will miss the start of the season because of soreness in his lat/back that resurfaced while throwing live batting practice last week.

Boxberger said he will not throw until the pain goes away, which he said should take a week. Then he will build arm strength from there and join the team sometime in April.

“Obviously disappointing,” Boxberger said. “It’s the second year in a row in spring I have to deal with (an injury). Let’s take the time now to get it right and hope for a quick recovery and come back.”

Boxberger missed the first two months of last season after having surgery in March to repair the adductor brevis muscle in the groin area.

He returned May 30 then injured his left oblique the following day during his first appearance of the season. That injury kept Boxberger on the DL until the end of July.

Boxberger thinks his latest setback stems from last year’s injuries.

“It was a freak thing coming back, my body getting adjusted to everything after the ups and downs from last year,” he said. “I think that’s part of it from starting and stopping so much last year. Probably carrying over a little bit.”  …

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Rays' Sternberg says top choice unavailable, stadium search ongoing

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg revealed Thursday that they have been denied their top stadium choice, or even top two.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg revealed Thursday that they have been denied their top stadium choice, or even top two.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg still expects to conclude the search for a new stadium site in the Tampa Bay area this year, but revealed Thursday that they have been denied their top choice, or even top two.

"We had some ideas on locations that just weren't available, that I thought would have worked perfectly, but they're off the table,'' Sternberg said in Port Charlotte. "So we're sort of moving down our list to Nos. 2, 3 and 4. It's like starting pitchers, you have five of them and sometimes No. 4 is better than No. 2, but rarely better than No. 1. The No. 1 is the No. 1. I hate to be mixing these sort of metaphors, but it sort of works in this case.

"We did have a choice that we thought that was going to be ideal, a choice or two, and it was going to be unavailable. We would have had to flesh it out. But we're working and trying to find out what will be next best.''

Sternberg would not say where that site was, or even whether it was in Pinellas or Hillsborough.

Asked how confident he was their years long search would conclude with a workable site in the Tampa Bay area, Sternberg said: "It's unknown at this point.'' …

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Bauers, Gillaspie among those sent back to minor league camp

Jake Bauers had an impressive camp, batting .353 with a .439 on-base percentage and a .824 slugging percentage with four home runs and 11 RBI.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jake Bauers had an impressive camp, batting .353 with a .439 on-base percentage and a .824 slugging percentage with four home runs and 11 RBI.

The Rays reassigned INF/OF Jake Bauers, OF Johnny Field, 1B Casey Gillaspie, INF Jake Hager, 3B Patrick Leonard, OF Dayron Varona, RHP Andrew Kittredge and RHP Neil Wagner this morning to minor league camp.

The team also released RHP David Carpenter and RHP Jeff Walters.

Bauers had an impressive camp, batting .353 with a .439 on-base percentage and a .824 slugging percentage with four home runs and 11 RBI.

“What did he not show,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re excited about him. Just his overall approach to hitting is what stands out more than anything. I think he actually got better in the outfield, and it was a good experience. He’s going to play outfield and first base.”

The power was great, but Cash was impressed with Bauers’ approach at the plate; how he worked counts and drew walks – 6 in 40 plate appearances.

“The hitability,” Cash said. “The power is something that kind of naturally comes. Obviously, it’s cool to see homers and everything. Just the pitch recognition, how he was able to turn a bat over and layoff pitches and put himself in good counts.”

Gillaspie hit .211 with three home runs and eight RBI. Cash said he showed “kind of the same thing” as Bauers.

  …

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