Rays predictably optimistic with camp set to open
Rays officials were predictably optimistic during their pre-camp media session on Thursday, baseball operations president Matt Silverman saying the pieces are in place to contend for a playoff spot and manager Kevin Cash agreeing whole-heartedly.
"How can you not be excited?' Cash said. "If you think we're healthier, which we are right now, and we've added to our lineup. We thought we made some really good adjustments at the end of the year, the last two months, and all they've done this offseason is brought some guys in that have a track record of hitting. So, yes.''
National experts have been mixed in their reviews of the Rays off-season work, but the abermetric-oriented Baseball Prospectus site projects the Rays to win 91 games and the AL East.
"I think it's a great computer,'' Cash said.
Nearly 50 Rays players are already working out; the first official session for pitchers and catchers is Sunday morning.
RHP Alex Colome, who has had visa issues in the past, is among those already working out.
Among highlights of the Thursday session:
* New addition RHP Ryan Webb will add a needed ground ball pitcher to the bullpen, giving the Rays a weapon when they need a double play grounder.
* Cash said one way to manage the Jake McGee-less bullpen is to have relievers able to go one-plus innings, which they will experiment with in spring training. He also said that while Brad Boxberger will be the closer there may not be a set set-up guy.
* Silverman said LH Matt Moore and LH Drew Smyly, who both returned last season from injuries, will come into camp "full go.'' Silverman said there will be discussions with the medical staff on managing their workload.
* Team VP Rick Vaughn said there was still no official word on the proposed March trip to Cuba. There are reports President Obama will make a visit in the same March 21-22 window. No word if he will pitch an inning.
* Silverman said C Justin O'Conner is having back issues, and will be behind at start of camp. They will have an update in a few days. 5 retweets 4 likes
* Cash said Smyly went and stayed with a physical therapist to work on shoulder during off-season and team has gotten "rave reviews."
* Cash said RHP Jake Odorizzi "put on a little bit more muscle, more weight'' and will benefit from more experience
* Cash said OF Desmond Jennings, who missed most of last season with left knee and dental issues, is in a good spot. He took off some weight to "lighten" load on his legs (ie, troublesome left knee) playing OF and to recover quicker.