Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays counting on Hanigan, Bell to rebound

ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday's surprising trade that landed the Rays frontline catcher Ryan Hanigan and late-inning reliever Heath Bell for two minor-leaguers certainly looks promising now.

"Great job," manager Joe Maddon said.

But for it to actually pay off, the Rays are counting on two veteran players, both several years into their 30s, to make significant rebounds from recent poor performances.

For Hanigan, the issue appears primarily physical, as a series of nagging injuries led to career-worst offensive numbers in 2013. But he maintained his strong defense and presented well in a pre-deal physical exam.

Bell seems the bigger project, as he failed miserably with the Marlins in 2012 and posted only slightly less worse numbers last season in Arizona.

But the Rays see things — or, at least, see things differently. Especially in veteran relievers.

So just as when they somewhat surprisingly signed Fernando Rodney and Kyle Farnsworth, they sound more than cautiously optimistic that Bell, too, can be rebuilt.

"It's more about the ingredients he has in place," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "His stuff is virtually as good as when he was a dominant closer with the Padres (2009-11). He missed a lot of bats last year. He commanded the ball better than he had in previous years. He's just got a lot of things in place that give him a chance to be really good, and it's about trying to sync them all up."

There is some proof, as within an overall unimpressive line (5-2, 4.11, 15-of-22 saves) Bell had a career-low 2.19 walks per nine innings and a strikeouts-per-nine rate of 9.87, his best since 2010.

Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said Bell wasn't that far off last season and that he should literally benefit from a change of scenery, going to the Trop from Chase Field (where his numbers were inflated) and into the Rays' relaxed environment.

"Knowing the personality of a guy like Joe Maddon, it probably works well with a guy like Heath," Towers said.

Maddon liked both products of the three-team trade.

"Getting a late-inning, high-leverage, experienced reliever, like Heath, is necessary when it comes to getting to the playoffs, and advancing deeply," he said via text message. "Then to have a starting catcher with Hanigan's ability and reputation to pull it all together makes planning with specific direction much easier and believable."

First at first?

First base is the Rays' gaping hole heading into next week's winter meetings. Though Friedman said it was "premature" to speculate what they're going to do, team president Matt Silverman said they were "hopeful" of re-signing free agent James Loney.

Amid reports that the Pirates are extremely interested and that Loney, 29, may be seeking a three-year, $30 million deal, Silverman told 620-AM radio:

"He's someone that we're interested in, and he knows that. The good thing for us is he liked it here. We liked him, he fit in well. And we're a known quantity. When he's thinking about other things out there, he won't know what the other clubhouses are like, he won't know what it's like living in that city. And so that gives us a little bit of an advantage. Our wallet isn't as big as other teams', so that's one disadvantage for us. But I'm hopeful that he can be here."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays

Comments
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

SARASOTA — Colby Rasmus is making a new start with the Baltimore Orioles after taking an eight-month break from baseball.Rasmus signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles this week, after abruptly leaving the Rays in midseason. The contrac...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

Rays open exhibition season with 6-3 win over Pirates

The Rays won the home game of their opening-day, split-squad set, beating the Pirates, 6-3.1B Brad Miller, with an opposite-field double off the wall, and CF Kevin Kiermaier, with a bloop single to shallow center, provided the early offense.2B Daniel...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

Rays journal: Miller time could be a good time, and more from openers

PORT CHARLOTTE — One of the key story lines in Rays camp is seeing what kind of bounce-back season they can get out of a healthy Brad Miller, coming off October core muscle repair surgery.And while Miller isn't feeling 100 percent — he st...
Published: 02/23/18
Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

Split-squad Rays hold on for 6-3 win at Orioles

SARASOTA — A split-squad team of Rays held on for a 6-3 victory Friday against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.Yonny Chirinos, making his debut as a Ray, tossed a pair of scoreless innings. He allowed an infield single to former Ray Tim Beckham...
Published: 02/23/18
Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

Live blog: Rays open spring training season against Pirates, Orioles

The Rays open the exhibition season with not one, but two games today.Non-roster pitcher Vidal Nuno will start against the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. in Port Charlotte. Denard Span, Matt Duffy, Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith and Adeiny Hechava...
Published: 02/23/18
Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

Rays’ Honeywell has torn UCL, headed for Tommy John surgery

The Rays got the worst-case news they were dreading, that top prospect RHP Brent Honeywell has a torn UCL and is headed for Tommy John  surgery.Honeywell said he plans to have the surgery as soon as possible to expedite his return sometime in th...
Published: 02/23/18
For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

For starters: Split squad opener for Rays – vs. Pirates and at Orioles, 1:05

With 15 teams training in Florida,  there usually has to be either be at least one team off or one team playing two games. And with today the official opening day of spring training, the Rays had the bad draw of having to play split squad games....
Published: 02/23/18
Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Rays spring training info: Friday – vs. Pirates and at Orioles

Friday's games:Vs. Pirates1:05, Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte. Pitchers: Rays – LH Vidal Nuno; Pirates – RH Taylor Eppler.Radio: raysbaseball.com, MLB At Bat app (free with mlb.com account)Tickets: raysbasebal...
Published: 02/23/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays holding their breath

Rays top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell left practice Thursday after throwing a handful of pitches, and the fear (now confirmed) is he might need Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it begins.In his lastest podcast, Rick Stroud has the la...
Published: 02/23/18