Sunday, June 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Changes aplenty this year for Rays' Fan Fest

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' annual Fan Fest will be different this year, with a new date, a changed format and fewer players participating.

Due to scheduling issues, the Rays are staging Fan Fest on Feb. 4, before the start of spring training in Port Charlotte rather than during camp.

As a result, many players won't yet be in the area and won't attend. A preliminary list released Wednesday had only 17 confirmed players, including fan favorites Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier and Jake Odorizzi, but not veteran Evan Longoria, All-Star Alex Colome, Brad Miller or any of their free agent additions. (Longoria was out before the recent trade of Logan Forsythe, which he was not happy about.)

The other big change is that only current season-ticket holders will have the opportunity to get autographs from Rays players, with a $100 donation to charity required for three.

Fans who aren't season-ticket holders can get autographs at no charge from a group of about 40 former major-leaguers, including Glenn Beckert, Tom Hume and Travis Hafner, and ex-Rays including Rolando Arrojo and Roberto Hernandez.

Parking and admission remain free. Hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m., with season-ticket holders admitted at 10 to Tropicana Field.

"We realize there have been some changes to Fan Fest, but we are thrilled that many of our players volunteered to participate," said Jeff Cogen, Rays chief business officer.

Typically the Rays hold Fan Fest on a Saturday early in spring training, but they made the change this year due to several conflicts, primarily an earlier start to camp because of the World Baseball Classic, which has them beginning games Feb. 24. Another factor is not wanting to lose most or all of a workout day in Port Charlotte, as camp report day is Feb. 12.

The Trop was unavailable Jan. 21 (college football), this week (home show) and Feb. 11 (gymnastics), leaving a choice between Feb. 4 and Feb. 18.

The Rays have been trying for several years to shift the focus away from autographs, given long wait times. Last year they sold a limited number of player-specific autograph passes for $25 each, proceeds going to charity.

Among other free events are clubhouse tours, dugout photos and tailgate-style games against Rays players. Kids have the opportunity to run the bases, high-five players, have a story read to them, receive instruction and participate in interactive baseball activities. There also will be the annual charity yard sale of game-used and other memorabilia, including Don Zimmer items, and a social media zone where fans can get photos with players and trophies.

In other Rays news:

• In seeking to add a right-handed bat after trading Forsythe, they have checked in on arguably the top remaining option, Mike Napoli. Other candidates include Chris Carter and Mark Reynolds.

• Among a dozen or so players working out at the Trop this week, outfielder Corey Dickerson stood out. That's because there was less of him. He lost 25 pounds with changes in diet and a training regimen that reshaped his now 200-pound body: "I feel completely different. The way I run. The quickness in the way I move. … My swing is quicker. The ball comes off my bat better. … The way I throw is different. It all benefitted me.''

• Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said his recovery from September left hip surgery is going well, which he showed during running drills in the Trop outfield.

Comments
For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

UPDATE, 11:37: Interesting decision by the Rays to move Adames to 2B today and reinstall Hechavarria at SS as he came off DL following Arroyo injury.Here is the Rays lineup:Duffy 3bBauers 1bRamos cCron dhAdames 2bHechavarria ssGomez rfRefsnyder lfFie...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

The Rays are still talking, as they should, about playing for something this season. The reality is that almost every move they've made, going back to the end of last season, and in some cases further, has been about 2019 and beyond.Clearing out vete...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

NEW YORK — Kevin Cash was not going to go all Lou Piniella on his Rays, raging and ripping and roaring over their latest mess, a 4-1 Saturday loss to the Yankees that didn't feel that close.Which is too bad because Piniella, the volcanic former...
Published: 06/16/18
Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

NEW YORK — Just when it seemed like SS Adeiny Hechavarria might not play another game for the Rays, he will rejoin them on Sunday.The Rays announced after Saturday's 4-1 loss that INF Christian Arroyo was placed on the DL due to an oblique stra...
Published: 06/16/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

RHP Ryne Stanek did his job as the opener just fine in getting four outs on Saturday, but for the Rays' unorthodox pitching plan to work it takes a team effort. And LHP Ryan Yarbrough's inability to throw strikes quickly put them in a hole.The experi...
Published: 06/16/18
For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

UPDATE, 11:49: Cash said he played Cron at 1B in an effort to get him more involved in the game, indicated he may do so again Sunday (with Bauers off vs. LH Sabathia) and should have done so more as Cron struggled. … Cash reiterated that CF Kev...
Published: 06/16/18
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg frustrated, but optimistic

NEW YORK — So what does the boss — lowercase, of course, around here — think of this up-and-down, hot-and-cold Rays season so far? Appropriately, a variety of things.In a 30-minute chat with the Tampa Bay Times before Friday's 5-0 l...
Published: 06/15/18
Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi pitches well against his ex-team but gets no help

NEW YORK — RHP Nathan Eovaldi made an impressive return to Yankee Stadium on Friday to face his high-powered former teammates.It's too bad he didn't get any help from his current mates, in what ended up a 5-0 Rays loss.Eovaldi was in command an...
Published: 06/15/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Give RHP Nathan Eovaldi credit for not letting emotions get in the way in his return to Yankee Stadium. He said he planned to treat it as all business, despite memories and friendships and he did just that, working impressively into the eighth.The Ra...
Published: 06/15/18
For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Eovaldi back on a familiar mound

For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Eovaldi back on a familiar mound

Coming off Thursday's 4-3 loss, the Rays will face the Yankees again tonight, and they are starting a pitcher quite familiar with the Yankee Stadium mound, RHP Nathan Eovaldi.Having spent 2015 and 2016 with the Yankees until sustaining the elbow inju...
Published: 06/15/18