Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays have split-squad openers

PORT CHARLOTTE — After 10 days of workouts, the Rays normally would be eager and excited to start playing games today.

Just not two.

Having an odd number of teams in Florida (15) creates scheduling difficulties. Among the toughest is making the Rays — or any team — play split-squad openers in a spring that started earlier due to the World Baseball Classic.

"Bad draw," manager Joe Maddon said. "It doesn't compute very well."

Primarily as a result of the two games, home against Pittsburgh and in Fort Myers against Boston, the Rays invited an extra 8-10 minor-leaguers to big-league camp (at a cost of $1,250 a week in lodging/meal money) to get through the first weekend.

Just in the two games today, with pitchers limited to one inning and position players no more than half a game, they figure to need more than 50 players. Plus, they will dress a handful of other minor-leaguers who have been working out unofficially in Port Charlotte as potential replacements. (Minor-league camp doesn't open until early March.)

"It's kind of early to play guys too long, and you've got to be careful with that," Maddon said. "So I'll try to dole it out as well as we can and without hurting anybody. That's my concern."

If there's a Wil: Top OF prospect Wil Myers couldn't help but smile over being in the lineup in rightfield for the home opener. "I came in, saw the board, and I was pretty excited," he said.

Myers played mostly centerfield in the Royals system last year and has said he liked it, but Maddon said he will be used in right and leftfield. And while Myers' hitting has been impressive, Maddon said the Rays have already identified things for him to work on, defense and baserunning.

Longo watch: Maddon said he hadn't spoken with 3B Evan Longoria, who left camp Tuesday night for the birth of his daughter, but expected to see him this weekend. Maddon said he had no concerns with Longoria missing time.

For starters: Maddon said there was no good reason for some shuffling of the pitching. RHP Alex Colome now starts in Fort Myers, and LHP Enny Romero and just-acquired LHP Mike Montgomery will pitch in the home game, where most team officials will be.

The home lineup: Sam Fuld, CF; Yunel Escobar, SS; Kelly Johnson, 2B; Jose Molina, C; Luke Scott, DH; James Loney, 1B; Wil Myers, RF; Chris Gimenez, 3B; Rich Thompson, LF; Roberto Hernandez, P.

The road lineup with bench coach Dave Martinez managing: Ben Zobrist, RF; Desmond Jennings, CF; Matt Joyce, LF; Jack Cust, DH; Ryan Roberts, 2B; Sean Rodriguez, 3B; Shelley Duncan, 1B; Jose Lobaton, C; Colome, P.

TV Time: Sun Sports announced it will air 150 games. Dewayne Staats, Brian Anderson and Todd Kalas return to the broadcast team along with Orestes Destrade and Barry LeBrock handling pregame and postgame duties. The Rays are set for two ESPN Sunday games, June 23 at the Yankees and Aug. 11 at the Dodgers; five Saturday Fox regional games and two games on Fox Sports Florida, leaving only three games not currently scheduled.

Miscellany: Ex-Ray Damian Rolls and former big-leaguer Dave LaPoint have an open house from 2 to 10 p.m. today and again next weekend at their new Fundy's Sports Academy (9854 Currie Davis Drive, Tampa; fundysports.com). … Former big-leaguer Orlando Palmeiro, who worked with Scott during the offseason, was a camp visitor. … There will be free skin cancer screenings from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today as part of Moffitt's Sun Safety Tour.

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