Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Smyly feels healthy, ready

PORT CHARLOTTE — Having missed most of last season battling his way back from a shoulder tear, Rays LHP Drew Smyly reported to camp upbeat after spending much of the winter working hard to prevent any further issues.

"I'm ready," Smyly said Friday. "Time will tell. Injuries are part of the game. You can't foresee them. Everyone tries to prepare themselves to be healthy, but stuff happens.

"But I feel great. I know I put in the work this offseason to put myself in position to pitch and be healthy. And now I've just got to do it.

"I know when I'm on the field I can perform with the best, so I'm excited to go back out and compete."

Smyly opened 2015 on the disabled list, made three starts, went back on the DL in early May, then returned in mid August to make nine more starts. He finished strong, 5-0, 2.54 in his last eight.

With that physical and mental boost, he spent the offseason working out near his Texas home with the physical therapist team associated with Dr. Keith Meister on a program that was a combination of rehab and strengthening. "We just focused on making my shoulder as healthy as it can be," he said.

BOXED IN: RHP Brad Boxberger reported to camp in a new situation, with a defined role for the first time, and as the Rays' clear closer at that.

"I'm ready for it," said Boxberger, who led the AL both in saves (41 in 47 chances) and relief losses (10).

"With what kind of went down last year and being able to keep that momentum and go into this year and fine-tune some stuff, and take some experience from last year and put it into this year, is definitely going to help me out," he said.

Given the volume of high-stress work, Boxberger said he plans to do a little less throwing leading up to the season, to "not overexert myself during spring, just be able to get through it healthy and be ready to go for April."

WEBB CITY: Growing up in Clearwater, RHP Ryan Webb was a fan of the local big-league team since the 1998 inaugural Devil Rays season, ticking off Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff and Quinton McCracken among his favorites.

And that history made Webb even more excited to be part of the current Rays team after agreeing Thursday to a one-year deal for $1 million, plus up to another $500,000 in appearance-based incentives.

"It's every kid's dream come true," Webb said. "I watched the Rays growing up since the inaugural season. The family would go to the games. Even when I was a pro, we would still come watch when they were in the playoffs. It's always exciting for me.

"So to have the opportunity to get to play in the place I grew up, it's really a dream come true. I'm really excited about it."

Webb and his family still live in the Tampa Bay area, so he is looking forward to the new experience of having them around all season. That includes his father, Hank, a former big-league pitcher with the Mets and Dodgers, who is now director of the Clearwater for Youth nonprofit group.

Sitting on the free agent market into February was "stressful," Webb said, but there was "a lot of interest" and he was eager to pursue the opportunity with a Rays team he sees as a contender.

Coming off a decent season with the Indians, Webb said he worked hard during the offseason to make some mechanical adjustments, quickening his time to the plate and improving his off-speed repertoire.

"I feel like I'm more prepared this spring than I have been the last couple," Webb said.

"I'm going to a little more aggressive approach and see where it takes me."

MISCELLANY: By unofficial count, at least 48 of the 64 rostered players are already in Port Charlotte, including all seven catchers and most of the 33 pitchers. … Today is an administrative day with physical exams and no on-field work. … The first workout for pitchers and catchers is 9:30 Sunday. … INF Ryan Brett reported sporting a Duck Dynasty-style beard but said it was thinner than last year. … Manager Kevin Cash noted that RHP Jake Odorizzi "put on a little bit more muscle, more weight."

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