Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays excited as trip to Cuba made official

RECOMMENDED READING


PORT CHARLOTTE — The opportunity to be the first major-league team to play in Cuba since 1999 is exciting enough for the Rays. The chance to play even a small part in normalizing relations between the United States and the island nation could really make the trip something special.

Major League Baseball on Tuesday made official what has been in the works for months: a March 22 exhibition between the Rays and the Cuban national team at Havana's 55,000-seat Estadio Latinoamericano.

"We're extremely excited as a group to be a part of this process," Rays ace and player rep Chris Archer said. "In a sense, we're part of something that is extremely historic for both countries."

Not all details have been announced. The Rays are expected to head to Cuba in two groups on March 20, have an optional workout while participating in a clinic and possibly other community/goodwill events on March 21, then play an afternoon game on March 22, which will be televised by ESPN and ESPN Deportes, and fly back to Tampa.

"For us, it's about spreading goodwill through baseball," Rays baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "We're excited for the opportunity and to experience firsthand the baseball culture of Cuba."

President Barack Obama, making a historic trip of his own as the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years, is slated to attend the game, possibly throwing out a first pitch. Other politicians are expected, including a dozen U.S. senators and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will not go, consistent with his longstanding political position.

The trip, less than two weeks before opening day, will cause some logistical and scheduling hassles for the Rays, such as making sure their pitchers get enough work. Silverman said preparation for the season will be a priority, including deciding which players will be in the small group, believed to be 28, who are allowed to go. Players have the choice of whether they want to be considered; those who do go get a $10,000 stipend from MLB, which will cover some but not all of the team's expenses.

Silverman said they will talk to the one Cuban player they have in camp, outfielder Dayron Varona, to see if he wants to go.

"I don't think it's going to be a distraction at all," Archer said. "It's going to be a little abnormal."

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said it will be worth it for the experience and the exposure.

"It can only be good for our franchise," he said. "We're going to have a lot of national attention. While everybody is looking at it as a little bit of a pain, we're going to be kind of psyched that we did it. We're going to be able to get our brand out there."

Both commissioner Rob Manfred and players union chief Tony Clark said in statements they appreciated baseball getting to play a role in the political process and acknowledged the history and passion of the Cuban fans.

Archer said the players are looking forward to experiencing that passion, as well as the chance to "mingle and experience the culture" on the island.

"We may look back 30 years from now when things are totally different between the two sides and say, 'You know what, we were a large part in some changes that went on,' " Archer said.

Comments
RHP Brent Honeywell among 6 set to be added to Rays 40-man roster

RHP Brent Honeywell among 6 set to be added to Rays 40-man roster

Top pitching prospect RHP Brent Honeywell and at least five others are set to be added to the Rays 40-man roster by tonight's 8 p.m. deadline, keeping them from being eligible for the Rule 5 draft.Honeywell, 22, had a solid season mostly at Triple-A ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Published: 11/18/17
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17
As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

Presuming Alex Cobb declines the Rays’ one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer by 5 p.m. today, he has pitched his last game for Tampa Bay.Cobb has received preliminary interest from "lots of teams" already, agent Dan Horwits said. The Cubs and Twin...
Published: 11/16/17
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made clear Thursday that identification of a site for a new Rays stadium is merely the first step for area leaders to show they want to keep the team long-term and that there needs to "consistent forward movement" on the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Wednesday that the team is "genuinely excited" about the proposed Ybor City site for a new stadium and more than "cautiously optimistic" the project can be completed. But ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17