Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Ben Zobrist sidelined by back soreness

PORT CHARLOTTE — 2B Ben Zobrist was eager to get started this season, arriving from his Nashville-area home several days in advance of Thursday's first full-squad workout.

But he didn't make it on the field to go through drills with the rest of the Rays, sidelined by lower-back issues that will sideline him at least a few more days but are not considered serious.

"I was in the weight room (Wednesday) and I tweaked it," said Zobrist, 32. "It's just tight and sore right now. I'm just going to have to wait a couple days before I get started."

Manager Joe Maddon said head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield similarly "does not anticipate a lengthy kind of problem or concern."

Zobrist said if he had to be out, it wasn't a bad time since he would only miss fundamental drills he already is familiar with.

"It's not what I wanted obviously, but it's just a couple days here before we even start spring training games," he said. "They don't think it's anything serious, anything that's going to keep me from playing or even being ready for our first spring training game (Feb. 28)."

ON POINT: Maddon said he felt good about his opening address to the full group, which took just under 15 minutes. He hit on specifics themes, such as shortening games and doing simple things right, noting the balance of the roster, and explained the inspiration, from the book Leaders Eat Last, for this year's team slogan, "Eat Last."

"I think I hit all the salient points," Maddon said.

MISSING MEN: Nonroster INF Wilson Betemit missed the workout, delayed by visa issues in his native Dominican Republic. RHPs Juan Carlos Oviedo and Juan Sandoval remain absent for the same reason.

FAN FEST DETAILS: The team's annual Fan Fest is 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday at Tropicana Field, with admission and parking free.

Rays players will participate in interactive activities such as reading to kids and calling friends of fans. Kids can run the bases, try other baseball activities and take photos with mascots Raymond and DJ Kitty. Clubhouse tours are available, coaches will put on clinics, and there is a "yard sale" of game-used and autographed items with proceeds to charity.

Autograph tickets for the big-name players — including Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and David Price at $125 each — are sold out. Other Rays will sign free for kids under 14, and 25 former big-leaguers will provide free autographs.

Single-game ticket sales start March 1. Three-, six- and nine-game flex packs, and season tickets, are available.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said in welcoming back SS Yunel Escobar that he reiterated that he felt Escobar deserved to win the Gold Glove that went to Baltimore's J.J. Hardy. … The annual meeting with Players Association officials, led by new executive director Tony Clark, will be held after today's workout, which was moved up to 9 a.m. … Saturday will be an early and abbreviated workout in Port Charlotte before players and staff head to the Fan Fest.

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