Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays journal: Players trying to keep focus as Irma bears down on Tampa Bay area

BOSTON — The Rays have been coping as well as they can with playing games at Fenway Park while being concerned about the impact of Hurricane Irma on their families, friends and the Tampa Bay area, though that challenge will grow tougher with the storm expected to hit today.

"I think they're handling it all right," manager Kevin Cash said before Saturday's 9-0 loss to the Red Sox. "There is legitimate concern. It is college football season, and I think half the TVs in the clubhouse are still on the Weather Channel, so that's pretty telling in itself.

"We have a lot of players that live in the bay area and have a lot of friends and stuff like that. And I'm sure a lot of us have family that has been traveling everywhere.

"Lots on their minds right now. But like I said (after Friday's 9-3 loss), I think they're able to separate it at 7 o'clock."

Since they can't go home as originally scheduled, the Rays will leave after today's game for New York, where their series against the AL wild-card-leading Yankees that was slated for Tropicana Field will be instead played at the Mets' Citi Field Monday-Wednesday.

The Rays are scheduled to host the Red Sox next weekend, and Cash said he talked preliminarily about that Saturday with baseball operations president Matt Silverman, but no decisions have been made on what to do if the Trop is not available due to storm damage or other issues. With the Mets on an extended road trip, staying in New York and hosting the Red Sox there would seem a likely option.

The Rays are also taking precautions with their training facility in Port Charlotte, which is also in Irma's path. The start of the fall instructional league, slated for today, was pushed back indefinitely (with the players notified before they headed to Florida), and staff has been either evacuated or sheltered after securing the complex, senior vice president Chaim Bloom said: "Safety comes first, and it's everyone's top priority."

Good news on Souza, who is day to day with bone bruise

RF Steven Souza Jr. was relieved and pleased that an MRI exam of his left knee showed only a bone bruise and no structural damage, meaning he can return to action as soon as the pain, stiffness and swelling lessen. "Still pretty sore, still pretty stiff (but) it's really good news, all the structure is intact," Souza said. "One of my main goals this year was to be healthy; I wasn't going to try to let this end my season." Manager Kevin Cash also said it was good news and considers Souza day to day, planning to check with him this morning about his availability.

Rehab report

RHP Jake Faria, out since Aug. 17 with an abdominal strain, is slated to make a rehab start today for short-season Class A Hudson Valley in Game 2 of the NY-Penn League playoffs, then rejoin the Rays in New York. … RHP Nate Eovaldi (Tommy John surgery) worked a 10-pitch first inning with two strikeouts and LHP Xavier Cedeno (forearm) a 14-pitch one-hit second in their first rehab outings for Double-A Montgomery in Game 4 of the Southern League playoffs. Both are eyeing late September returns to the Rays.

Not-so-minor matters

C Justin O'Conner's two-run single in the eighth inning lifted Triple-A Durham to a 4-3 win over Indianapolis (Indians), giving the Bulls a 3-1 victory in the first-round best-of-five International League series. The Bulls head to the Governor's Cup final for the 11th time in 20 years. … Double-A Montgomery tied its Southern League series at 2 with a 2-0 victory over Chattanooga (Twins). The deciding game 5 is tonight. … Zacrey Law's walkoff three-run homer gave Hudson Valley a 5-2 win over Staten Island (Yankees) to open their best-of-three series.

Radio nowhere

Starting Saturday night, Rays flagship radio station 620-AM is airing Irma-related news until further notice. Games will be carried by other Rays Radio affiliates and can be heard free of charge via mlb.com and the MLB At-Bat app.

Helping hands

Rays players will be part of a two-sport, four-team effort today to raise funds for Red Cross relief efforts related to Hurricane Irma. Donations will be collected at all Fenway Park gates before and during the game. Rays and Red Sox players will take part, as well as from the NHL Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers, who relocated training sessions from Fort Lauderdale to the Boston area, where they have a minor-league affiliate.

Miscellany

. The Rays went into Saturday having homered in 18 straight games, the longest such streak in team history within a season and three shy of their overall record.

. RHP Alex Cobb starts today saying the blister that became a cut on one of his fingers in his last start "healed really nicely throughout the week" and should not be an issue at all today.

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