PORT CHARLOTTE — When Rays OF Steven Souza Jr. throws his next strike to a base to nail a runner this season, he will thank reliever Steve Geltz.
After making what manager Kevin Cash called "a noncompetitive" throw in his injury-delayed March 9 spring debut, Souza got to work on getting better.
First, he got some valuable advice and helpful instruction from outfield/1B coach Rocco Baldelli.
Then he got a suggestion from Geltz, who offered to show him his unorthodox throwing program, where he tosses a hockey puck as well as a Club K training ball with two flat sides (as if two pieces were sliced off), which provides feedback on his release based on how the puck and ball spin, and if there is wobble.
"I get made fun of a lot for doing it, but, man, it's really helped, especially with my backspin," Souza said. "It's been really great to see it. After that (March 9) game, I was like, I know I've got a really good arm and it's got to play. …
"I really feel I needed to work on it. Since then, I've seen the throws become truer, more on line, more accurate, have a little bit of life behind them, too. That's what I'm looking for."
EXTRA DUTY: The Rays will have a half-dozen starters, led by 3B Evan Longoria and CF Kevin Kiermaier, in Dunedin for today's game against the Blue Jays. But opening day starter RHP Chris Archer and seven others are headed to Fort Myers to play in a Triple-A game against the Twins.
For Archer, it is strategic, as he otherwise would be pitching against the same Blue Jays team he will face for real Sunday. But for the others, such as 1B Logan Morrison, SS Brad Miller, Souza and Cs Hank Conger and Rene Rivera, it is a chance to get extra at-bats since the Rays were off Monday. Cash and coaches Stan Boroski and Jamie Nelson will be there as well, with Tom Foley managing the team in Dunedin.
Also, Cash said they will have several sessions this week to review fundamentals, such as baserunning and bunt defenses.
ROSTER STATUS: Cash said the Rays may wait until the end of the week to make their final roster moves, with 10 players to be trimmed, though three (RHPs Brad Boxberger, Alex Cobb and Chase Whitley) are headed to the disabled list.
The big decisions are filling the last two/three spots in the bullpen (and whether to move No. 5 starter Erasmo Ramirez there given abundant April off days), deciding between Conger and Rivera as the second catcher and what to do with displaced 1B James Loney.
Cash said it was "very possible" they will start the season with an extra position player, specifically that "there is a chance we could be carrying three catchers." That leaves Loney to likely be traded or released.
SECURE MATTER: Team president Brian Auld said details are still being worked out to provide additional security around the team after the Saturday incident in Bradenton when a Cuban man ran onto the field and threw a beer can into their dugout in protest of their recent trip to Cuba. "Major League Baseball is aware of it, and we are going to respond appropriately," he said. "I do not think it's going to be anything the casual observer notices, and I doubt our players will even notice, but we are paying a lot more attention."
PITCHING IN: Cobb and Whitley, both recovering from May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgeries, are set to resume throwing today after a planned two-week rest period and are slated to progress to throwing off the mound for the first time in about two weeks.