PORT CHARLOTTE — CF Kevin Kiermaier said he is not one to deliver a rah-rah, "follow me, boys" speech, but he felt the need to say something Sunday morning near the end of the team meeting before the Rays' first full-squad workout of the spring.
"A little bit of enlightenment, I guess you can call it," Kiermaier said of his message, which he estimated lasted not more than 20 seconds.
Kiermaier said he began by telling those in the room that he reached the big leagues at the end of the 2013 season, in time for the Rays' play-in game at Texas and the wild card game at Cleveland. That was the last playoff season for the Rays.
"Three years is too long," Kiermaier said. "Trying to cut that down and get back (to the playoffs) this year. I said we've had some really good individual performances the past couple of years, but collectively we haven't played together as a team yet, so it will be nice to do that this year. Everyone knows it's a lot easier said than done, but at the same time, I just want to remind guys, let's come in here, let's work with each other and do whatever it takes to get better with each other and let's go out there and win and have a lot more fun than what we've had the last three years."
Kiermaier was the only player to talk, and 3B Evan Longoria said he was glad he did. "I loved it. I think it was a surprise to us all and also something that I think we're all thinking," Longoria said. "It's not fun to lose, and it was good to have that message come out early on. Usually it gets circulated at some point by somebody, but it was great to see (Kiermaier) step up, be that guy."
Kiermaier believes he has earned the respect of his teammates, which made him feel comfortable. Longoria agreed.
"He's one of the faces (of the team) now," Longoria said. "He's one of our impact players."
Manager Kevin Cash planned to talk for no more than 90 seconds during the pre-workout meeting, and he felt he accomplished what he wanted.
His message: "We really believe in the guys that are in this room. We're not really looking to improve as individuals here, because we value the guys that we have and the guys we brought in. Saying that, let's not confuse that with we know we have to get better. We have to work on fundamentals and stuff, but as far as the individual skill and the talent, we're very happy. We feel we're in a good spot."
"I agree," CF Kevin Kiermaier said. "We have the guys to win. We can do it. It's just about executing and performing at a high level throughout the course of the season. Who cares (about) the projections, how we're not expected to do anything. That's how it is every year, but we can do it."
Quote of the day
"I think we have to be able to erase 2016 and move on to 2017, and we got to win more. It's as simple as that. We have to win more baseball games."
3B Evan Longoria, on the team's goal
. It's status quo on the Rays' interest in free agent C Matt Wieters. They made their undisclosed offer; he hasn't taken it and is still looking for more elsewhere.
. RHP Nathan Eovaldi was feeling good a day after playing catch for first time since Tommy John surgery and is on an every-other-day plan.
. Manager Kevin Cash said it's possible that SS Matt Duffy (heel surgery), 1B Logan Morrison (wrist surgery) and OFs Colby Rasmus (hip core muscle surgery), Mallex Smith (left side tightness) and Steven Souza Jr. (hip surgery) will be held out of early spring games.
Today's workout starts at 10:30 a.m. at the Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, and will last about 23/4 hours. Admission and parking are free. Driving time from the bay area is 11/2-2 hours. Suggested route: Interstate 75 south to Toledo Blade Road, go west 61/2 miles to El Jobean Road (SR 776), go right 2 miles, stadium complex is on left. For more information: (941) 235-5025.