Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: Looking back at a memorable week

A look back at what in a lot of ways was a memorable week for the Rays:

All-Star companions

After the actual honor, players say the best thing about being an All-Star is the chance to hang out and talk with guys they are usually opposing. Among some interesting observations, pairings and thoughts in Miami:

• RHP Chris Archer: Noted the camaraderie of the AL-leading Astros contingent, saying "You can tell they're like brothers. It really stands out." … Joked with Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel about getting some of his location in exchange for 1-1½ mph off his fastball, also talked with Twins RHP Ervin Santana and Astros RHP Lance McCullers of Tampa. "There's some great arms here, I'm blessed to be able to pick their brains." … "Talked shop" with the father of Tigers RHP Michael Fulmer, on how he evolved as a pitcher. … In addition to special tropical-themed Adidas cleats and other swag, got Aaron Judge-signed baseballs for family members and the Archway Foundation's charity auction. … Said being an All-Star for a second time "never gets old," that seeing the enthusiasm of veteran All-Stars was "a refresher, a reminder that we get to do something very special and we are the elite of the elite and should never forget that." … Had his parents and mentor Ron Walker ride with him in the parade. … Called Judge the current "face of baseball" and "the second coming of Derek Jeter, a man of color doing what he's doing in this game." … Noted he enjoys promoting the Rays, "whatever I can do to help the organization, I'm down. I love representing the brand." ... Said after flying to Miami in a five-seat private jet he'd like to get his pilot's license. … Passed on an invite to Wednesday's ESPYs.

DH Corey Dickerson: Excited to discuss hitting with Astros 2B Jose Altuve, "just his thought process really, not really anything physical. … It was pretty neat. He likes hitting, he enjoys it. And (SS Carlos) Correa joined in. It was pretty cool." … Talked with Mariners 2B Robinson Cano among others: "All these guys I've watched play but really haven't gotten to know. It was really cool." … Was impressed by how respectful and friendly other stars were: "It's kind of like you've been on teams with then before, they are like, "Congratulations" and "You deserve it," and you say the same thing back." … Took postgame photo on field with 12 family members. … Had wife, son, brother and brother-in-law ride in parade with him, his second after being grand marshal of a Christmas parade back home in Mississippi. … Said "the madness, all the stuff that goes on before you play was more than I expected" but overall it was "a great experience." … Got a fan from a Japanese journalist and cool shiny cleats from Nike among other items.

• Manager Kevin Cash, AL bench coach: Enjoyed talking with a number of the AL stars: "Pretty fortunate for a .183 hitter to be around some of these guys. You get to interact with people that you see from the other dugout. There's players you get different views competing against them, but to get to sit down, say hello and shake hands, it's been pretty special." … That included the Yankees contingent of Gary Sanchez, Dellin Betances and Judge. "Not really knowing those guys," Cash said. "Not liking them when they're in the (opposing) uniform, but good guys to sit and talk with." … Said it was a good experience for him meeting pregame with MLB officials going over game logistics.

• RHP Brent Honeywell: Said it was very important he was chosen to start Futures Game. …Undecided what to do with the "huge like paperweight thing" he got for being MVP, saying his parents may "have to play rock, paper, scissors for it."

Rocky Mountain view

Three Rockies on the NL team said they weren't surprised at all that ex-mate Dickerson was an AL star, more so that he wasn't as good in his 2016 debut with the Rays. "Last year I was almost in shock, I couldn't believe he wasn't hitting," 3B Nolan Arenado said. "But there were adjustments that had to be made, and he understood that. He's a great hitter, that's what he always does." OF Charlie Blackmon had a similar view: "When he was in Colorado I saw incredible hand-eye coordination, bat-to-ball skills and a simple, smooth swing with a lot of power. I felt like he was naturally going to run into a lot of baseballs really hard."

Some thoughts on Rasmus' decision

It's normal to think there is something more, or something amiss, about Colby Rasmus' decision to "step away" from the game, but unless/until something comes out, consider this: He has already made more than $40 million; even friends acknowledge he is widely "different" than other players, including in motivation; and he relishes the country life he has in Alabama. (As a colleague who covered him earlier in his career told me: Think of the most country player you've ever covered, then go about six more miles into the woods.) Also, unlike other injured Rays, Rasmus hadn't been around the team much. Further, he similarly left (quit on?) the Astros — though without the restricted-list designation or giving up his pay — near the end of last season when sidelined by the hip issue that eventually required surgery.

Trade rumblings

A lefty reliever seems to be atop the Rays shopping list, with Oakland's Sean Doo­little, San Diego's Brad Hand and Detroit's Justin Wilson among the most popular, and pricey, candidates. … Another could be a right-handed bat to boost the offense versus lefty starters though, as odd as it seems to write, there's no glaring position to upgrade. ESPN's Buster Olney suggests Detroit OF J.D. Martinez, who would be owed about $4 million, as a possible fit. … Not to say the market is running a little high now, but in one exploratory chat about bullpen help, a team asked the Rays about top prospects INF Willy Adames and Honeywell — and wanted both. (Is Mariano Rivera back in his prime?) It would be a shock if they gave up either. … In making the June deal for SS Adeiny Hechavarria, the Rays also asked about relievers so expect that to be revisited as the Marlins start their expected purge. … The Cubs getting LHP Jose Quintana should quiet that steady hum of Archer chatter in Chicago. (Archer, on the other hand, did say in response to a somewhat leading question about reuniting with manager Joe Maddon, "at some point in my career, sharing a clubhouse with him would be really nice. … I'll answer that politically.")

Rays rumblings

Whatever north of $1 billion the Marlins end up selling for, some MLB people think the Rays automatically become worth more. … With DH/1B Rickie Weeks nearing a DL return, a decision is likely pending between him and Trevor Plouffe, who can also play third. … Players at Thursday's optional workout were equally frustrated by having home show booths set up in the Trop outfield and not having the AC on. … The Trop was a consensus 30th and last in the Washington Post's coolly interactive staff rankings of MLB stadiums, with writer Dave Sheinin citing the roof, "drab and gray" interior, "network of goofy catwalks" and poor team play. … Honeywell's hopes for a September callup might be a little aggressive. … Ex-Rays C J.P. Arencibia is doing work for TuneIn online radio. … An oddity in the 2018 schedule: a Friday off in Boston, after playing in the Sox's April 5 home opener. That's after opening at home March 29 versus Boston and being the Yankees' opening guests April 2. … Talks continue on a new Rays TV deal. … Archer got fined $1,000 for "intentionally" hitting Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison, his former Class A roommate, on June 29. … GM Mike Hill said the Marlins considered Hechavarria "Gold Glove caliber" but felt they had a replacement (rookie JT Riddle) and wanted to add prospects to their system.

     
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