Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays home in on bullpen help

PORT CHARLOTTE

Improving the bullpen was one of the Rays' top goals for this season, and they are still trying to do that, getting close to finalizing a minor-league deal with veteran RHP Tommy Hunter.

And they are talking about at least taking a flier on another intriguing option. Veteran RHP Brian Wilson is trying to make a comeback as a knuckleballer.

Hunter, 30, can provide depth and experience. He split last season with the Indians and Orioles, going 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 33 games, and he has been in the majors for parts of nine seasons, switching in 2013 from starting to relieving.

The Rays appear to have two openings in their bullpen, with five spots targeted for RHPs Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Erasmo Ramirez and Shawn Tolleson, and LHP Xavier Cedeno.

Wilson, 35 in March, last pitched in the majors in 2014, He is known as much (or more) for his eccentric personality and flowing beard as his solid relief work during nine years with the Giants and Dodgers. The Rays' interest makes sense. They have developed a program and hired staff to identify, develop and refine knuckleball pitchers. If signed, Wilson likely would be in minor-league camp.

TV time

Rich Hollenberg (below), a pregame and postgame host and occasional in-game reporter for Fox Sports Sun the past three seasons, surprisingly hasn't been retained. A replacement is expected to be named soon.

"While this move was not my decision, I understand it's a business," he said. "I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the Rays and will especially miss interacting with the fans. It never felt like work to me, especially because I had such a blast with (co-host) Orestes (Destrade), who I consider like a brother.''

Hollenberg plans to expand his college football duties with ESPN.

Also, Fox announced the hiring of Alex Corddry as the in-game reporter to replace Todd Kalas, who left to become the Astros' TV play-by-play announcer. Corddry covered college football for ESPN and the SEC Network.

Tweet of the day

"The last tools necessary before heading to Port Charlotte. #KramerKnives"

3B and noted chef Evan Longoria, who included a photo that included four knives, a wooden spoon and other cooking utensils

Number of the day

2 Players of the 23 position players invited to camp who hadn't reported by Thursday: 3B Evan Longoria and OF Richie Weeks. The first full-squad workout is Sunday.

Spring flings

. OF Mallex Smith spends a lot of time working on his bunting, impressing coaches with his dedication, talent and advanced knowledge of technique.

. Pitchers Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Chase Whitley, Kevin Gadea, Blake Snell and Xavier Cedeno did not throw bullpen sessions Thursday. They are in the group that will receive extra days between sessions because of the longer-than-normal camp.

. Though he wasn't throwing, Alex Cobb stood on a bullpen mound and worked on his delivery.

. Pitchers Jake Faria, Danny Farquhar, Ryan Garton and Ryan Stanek threw their first bullpen sessions of camp.

Medical matters

RHP Jose De Leon, who skipped Wednesday's bullpen session because of mid-back tightness, played catch on flat ground. Manager Kevin Cash said he expected De Leon to throw a bullpen session today. Cash said he believed Ramirez, who missed Wednesday's workout because of a sore hamstring, will also throw a bullpen today.

Steady LoMo

1B/DH Logan Morrison reported to camp and said his left wrist, which required offseason surgery, is fine. Manager Kevin Cash said he was impressed last season with the way Morrison carried himself while batting .100 with a .156 on-base percentage in April. "I don't know if you can envision a player handling it any better than him," Cash said. "For a new guy coming into the team, he probably naturally, unknowingly put some exceeded expectations (on himself), and he didn't panic. He didn't complain when maybe some playing time started to decrease. He waited his turn. Did the same routine, same work, was the same consistent guy. That meant a lot to us as a clubhouse, as a coaching staff. We learned a lot about him."

The dish

Today's workout for pitchers and catchers starts at 10:30 a.m. at the Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, and will last about 2¼ hours. Admission and parking are free. Driving time from the bay area is 1½-2 hours. Suggested route: Interstate 75 south to Toledo Blade Road, go west 6½ miles to El Jobean Road (SR 776), go right 2 miles, stadium complex is on left. For more information: (941) 235-5025.

 
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