Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays get to work on improving baserunning

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PORT CHARLOTTE — One of manager Kevin Cash's primary goals for this season is to improve the Rays' running game.

That process started in earnest early Tuesday morning with a talk and video session led by 1B coach Rocco Baldelli.

"It went well," Cash said. "The reviews that I asked for of what the guys thought … Rocco's got just a great way about him. A very calm demeanor, and listens very well. Takes the feedback from the players. So he made it fun.

"We had some real baserunning blunders (on video) that the guys laughed about, but then he locked it in and said, 'Hey, here's when we can laugh now, but we've got to avoid this from happening. This is why it happened, now what can we do differently.' I think the message was very good."

Ultimately, Cash said it is incumbent on the players to be better decision-makers after ranking 22nd in stolen base percentage (65.91) and 28th in an overall baserunning metric compiled by fangraphs.com that includes taking extra bases and being thrown out.

"We've got to use better judgment on the bases," Cash said. "Our baserunners need to be the ones deciding what to do on the field. We can't rely on the coaching staff. … We've got to get our guys to make decisions on their own. That will be a point of emphasis."

CF Kevin Kiermaier said the message is getting across: "We need to be a little more intelligent on the bases this year because we have fast guys and we don't want to give any outs away, especially in late, critical parts of the game."

Another point is to stay on the base when advancing as the use of replay has led to more runners being called out. Drills will continue throughout the spring.

COOL CASH: Cash expects the usual exhibition-season-starting anticipation today but none of the nervousness from last year when the spring opener was the first game he would manage at any level.

"Obviously the excitement is going to be there to get out there and see some fans, say hello to some people, hear the crowd a little bit," Cash said.

"But I'll definitely be calmer. There was obvious anxiety last year, probably more that I put on myself than anyone else. But it was something new. I had never experienced that, and it was fun. So this year, it'll be much, much calmer. Just going to work."

MORE MOORE: LHP Matt Moore continued what has been an impressive camp so far in another strong live batting practice session during Tuesday's abbreviated workout, with little, if any, hard contact. "He looked really, really good," Cash said. "He has been very consistent." Moore is slated to make his exhibition debut Monday against the Red Sox in Fort Myers. … LHP Drew Smyly makes his first start Saturday night against the Orioles.

NO JAKIN': RHP Jake Odorizzi wasn't making too much out of starting today's spring opener, noting the bigger regular season honors are obviously going to All-Star ace RHP Chris Archer.

"It's just the day that it falls on for me," Odorizzi said. "It just sets me up for the season.

"It's cool to go out there and get the first game out of the way. One inning or two innings, whatever it may be. Just get through it. You know, work on fastball location in an actual game situation. And just get through it then as we build, start getting more in depth with some stuff."

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Ryan Webb did test his previously tight left hamstring in a bullpen session Monday and felt good enough to be tentatively scheduled to pitch in Thursday's game. … Nonroster 1B Kyle Roller has been limited for a few days after rolling an ankle and probably won't play for a few days. … OF Steven Souza Jr. (intercostal strain) is aiming to make his exhibition debut the middle of next week.

MISCELLANY: OF Corey Dickerson's team won the team's annual charity golf tournament at Bradenton's Ritz-Carlton Club, with Odorizzi's team, which included some of the team owners, second. RHP Steve Geltz had the longest drive, at 325 yards. … Andy Freed, Neil Solondz and Dave Wills will provide internet radio coverage of today's opener via raysbaseball.com.

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