Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays firming up plans for trip to Cuba

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Though some details are still being worked out, the Rays are getting a better sense of the whens and wheres for next week's historic trip to Cuba.

And they will address the whos today with plans to announce the bulk of the player contingent that will make the three-day trip that culminates with the 2 p.m. March 22 exhibition against the Cuban National Team.

That list will include most of their 40-man rostered players, along with OF Dayron Varona, their lone Cuban-born player. (RHP prospect Jake Faria has Cuban heritage, with his maternal grandparents from the island.)

One of the details still being worked out is the number of players who can be active, with 32-33 being discussed. LHP Matt Moore is slated to be the starter.

Based on a tentative schedule for the day before, the Rays will participate in a media conference (RHP Chris Archer, 3B Evan Longoria, manager Kevin Cash, principal owner Stuart Sternberg) along with MLB and Cuban baseball officials, then have a workout at Estadio Latinoamericano, and some players and staff will stage a kids clinic. Varona, who left the island three years ago on a boat with his mother for the chance to play pro ball, will do a media session at the stadium.

Cash said the trip has created some disruptions to the Rays' schedule and months of complex logistical issues for travel director Chris Westmoreland and PR vice president Rick Vaughn, but it still will be well worth it.

"It's been a lot of work for those people, but I think we're really going to appreciate it and enjoy it being a lot of fun for us," Cash said. "It kind of stinks that it's only going to be a 21/2-day stint, but we'll make the most of it. The President … all the politicians … me personally, I'm probably most excited to see the fans because you've heard about them."

Also, the timing is good for a break from routine at a time when spring training tends to drag.

"This will definitely recharge some guys, get them excited to go somewhere and then we'll be ready to get back home and get rolling those last 10 games heading into the season," Cash said. "I think it's actually perfect timing."

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (6-8) managed only three hits in the 5-0 loss to the Braves. … Archer worked 42/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts, throwing 72 pitches (38 strikes). Archer said he was too "passive" at the start for a second straight game and may looking into warming up longer but was pleased overall. … 1B James Loney had a double, his third of the spring. … Minor-league SS Andrew Velazquez made a nifty play to start a double play. … Nonroster RHP Mark Sappington made his fourth scoreless appearance.

JAFF TIME: Nonroster LF Jaff Decker made up for an earlier misplay with a spectacular leaping catch at the wall to rob former Rays INF Reid Brignac of what would have been a three-run homer.

"That was awesome, what a play," Cash said. "He's a gamer, man. That guy can play. It seems like every time he gets up to the plate he squares a ball up. He probably has 15 hits already this spring, it seems like (nine, for a .409 average anyway). We're lucky to have him. And we're going to keep running him out there — he likes to play."

MEDICAL MATTERS: INF/OF Steve Pearce, sidelined nearly a week with right calf tightness, increased his activity Monday, taking batting practice and ground balls in Port Charlotte. … RHP Matt Andriese, scratched from his Sunday start due to abdominal muscle soreness, is slated to throw off the mound today. … Video coordinator Chris "Chico" Fernandez was released from the hospital Sunday night after having tests but was still not feeling well, Cash said.

MISCELLANY: The first major reduction of the now 64-man roster is expected today. … RHP David Carpenter, signed last week to a minor-league deal after being released by the Braves, is slated to make his first exhibition appearance today.

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