Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays don't know impact of redesign beyond outfield

PORT CHARLOTTE

The Rays will have a chance to do some work at the Trop this week. But they really won't know the full impact of the renovations and redesign of the batter's eye wall until they actually play games, starting with opening day.

While the initial reviews were good from hitters who tested it out, there are some questions that — with no exhibitions scheduled — they can't yet answer.

Potentially of most concern is whether the fans that can now watch from areas on either side of the 90-foot-wide wall will be a distraction to the hitters, either by wearing light clothing or using their cellphone cameras and flashlights.

The new gathering spots are the prime byproduct of the stadium renovations to create 360-degree circulation by replacing the dark-glassed restaurant that had been beyond the centerfield fence with an open bar and standing space. As part of the change, the new wall — and all of the outfield fences and other stadium padding — will be dark blue.

"It's just different. We're used to looking at those dark windows and then the big blue top, so I don't know. We'll see," 3B Evan Longoria said.

"We may get some guys complaining once the season starts. We were hitting there with nothing going on. … There may be some stuff we see, like people moving around and taking pictures. Stuff like that where they are in our peripheral vision."

There also will be at least one TV camera positioned in their sights.

Rays and MLB officials are confident the design won't be an issue, pointing to other stadiums that have similar gathering spots where there are no problems, and say that stadium security will be used to help. But without an exhibition scheduled this week, they really won't know what they have until opening day. And it may present differently when they play at night the next day.

"I don't know," Longoria said. "I hope it's not an issue because then you start getting into a bunch of logistical issues with the fans and stuff. I hope it works out."

HAIR TODAY: Manager Joe Maddon wanted the players to participate in last week's head-shaving event primarily to benefit the cause, raising funds and awareness for pediatric cancer.

But he had another reason, which he believes could help them on the field. "If they would just take the leap and just jump in there and do it," he said, "that little bit of risk, that little bit of discomfort, all of those things that are uncomfortable, I think benefits you when you're on the field and the moment gets hot — you're used to handling uncomfortable moments."

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Former Devil Rays star Aubrey Huff, who last played in 2012 with the Giants, has a new gig: co-host of a morning radio show in San Francisco. … Initial response to the Ben and Julianna Zobrist book Double Play, out officially April 1, has been strong. … The Rays are 12th in espn.com's Future Power Rankings, which project out five years based on talent, finances, management; the Red Sox are No. 1.

. FAST FACTS

Roster report

Third of our weekly guesses on the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

Pitchers (12): Chris Archer, Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Alex Cobb, Mark Lowe*, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi, Joel Peralta, David Price, Cesar Ramos

Catchers (2): Ryan Hanigan, Jose Molina

Infielders (6): Yunel Escobar, Logan Forsythe, James Loney, Evan Longoria, Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (5): David DeJesus, Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Wil Myers

DL: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo

* Nonroster

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