Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

First base becomes priority for Rays

A lot of what the Rays will talk about at this week's winter meetings — and a vast majority of what is said about them — is likely to concern a potential trade of LHP David Price.

But even after what has, by their standards, been a busy start to the offseason, they still have more to do, primarily offensively.

"If the season opened tomorrow, I think we would feel pretty confident about our ability to keep runs off the board," executive VP Andrew Friedman said.

First base, Friedman admits bluntly, is "an area we absolutely have to address."

The Rays are hopeful of bringing back incumbent James Loney, but until he further drops his already reduced price from three years and $27 million, that seems unlikely. And the Pirates are said to be interested.

The Rays would prefer to stay with a lefty hitter, but other free agents, besides Lyle Overbay, are right-handed: Corey Hart, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds. The trade market might be more promising with lefties Mitch Moreland (Rangers), Logan Morrison (Marlins) and Adam Lind (Blue Jays), plus switch-hitter Justin Smoak (Mariners) and right-hander Mark Trumbo (Angels).

Morrison seems likely to be moved, and mlb.com's Joe Frisaro reported the Marlins have some interest in Sean Rodriguez.

Given a current plan to rotate DH at-bats among several players, the configuration of the Rays bench will be critical, with the handed-ness of who ends up at first base part of the equation.

Reports of interest in Mark Ellis and Jamey Carroll suggest they want a veteran right-handed hitter who can play second, which could lead to Ben Zobrist again shuffling between second and the outfield.

But there are several ways they could end up doing this. And though they value positional flexibility, there is still a chance they end up adding more of a DH-style bat if they find a good deal.

Also, in the rare position of having catching depth, they are expected to trade Jose Lobaton.

The standard reconstruction of the bullpen is under way, with a pair of former closers, RHP Heath Bell and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo, joining RHP Joel Peralta and LHPs Jake McGee and Alex Torres. Though they feel covered, and either Bell or Oviedo could claim the closer's job, Friedman said they will, as usual, keep looking to improve. That could include a bid if one of the established closers — say, Fernando Rodney — ends up lingering on the market.

The rotation is solid, though a trade of Price (or RHP Jeremy Hellickson) would leave an opening they could seek to fill externally. Otherwise, LHP Enny Romero or RHPs Alex Colome or Jake Odorizzi.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: OF Sam Fuld is said to be getting "lots of interest" since being nontendered, but nothing is imminent. Fuld still plans to hold his diabetes sports camp at USF. … April 1 is set as the release date for Ben and Julianna Zobrist's co-autobiography, appropriately titled Double Play. … Former TV reporter Laura McKeeman on Saturday married Rockies INF Josh Rutledge. … Two interesting tidbits about C Ryan Hanigan: He majored in philosophy at Rollins College, and his father, Mike, was an FBI agent in Boston.

Comments
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

ST. PETERSBURG – Rookie 1B Jake Bauers has impressed at the plate and in the field since his June 7 promotion.Also, with his hustling on the bases."I knew he played hard; everybody said that at every level,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I di...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Published: 06/20/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Published: 06/20/18
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Published: 06/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Times sports columnist Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to discuss Kevin Kiermaier's return to the Rays, whether Victor Hedman should win the Norris Trophy for the NHL's best defenseman, Bucs expectations for this season and Barry Trotz's next c...
Published: 06/20/18
How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

There was some interesting inside baseball elements that factored into the late innings of Tuesday's 2-1 Rays win.* First, on Matt Duffy's double off reliever Hector Rondon to lead off the eighth.Duffy said he doesn't like "to guess" what a pitcher i...
Published: 06/20/18
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18