Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays prospect Shaffer models game after Ripken

PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays third base prospect Richie Shaffer grew up idolizing Cal Ripken, putting up an "Iron Man" poster on the wall next to his bed in his Charlotte, N.C., childhood home.

Shaffer, 22, Tampa Bay's first-round pick in 2012, wore Ripken's No. 8 from Little League through his college days at Clemson. So he was devastated when the first time he went to see Ripken in person, it turned out to be the day the Orioles Hall of Famer sat out for the first time in 16 seasons, snapping his record streak of 2,632 games played.

"It was pretty wild," Shaffer said. "An interesting day."

It was Sept. 20, 1998, and Shaffer, then 7, went to Camden Yards with his grandmother for a Sunday night game against the Yankees. With the season winding down, and Orioles not in contention, Ripken decided to snap the streak where it started, and rookie Ryan Minor played in his place.

"I remember walking around the terrace, and the guy that is reading out the lineup was at third base and didn't say 'Ripken,' " Shaffer said. "I'm like, 'What?' We went to the scoreboard and it said someone else. I didn't put two and two together until the game finally started and he's not playing. I'm like, 'No!' "

Shaffer, now with Class A Charlotte, plays third, as Ripken did in the final years of his career. But Shaffer may also eventually switch positions because three-time All-Star Evan Longoria is entrenched in that spot, signed to a $100 million extension through 2022. While Shaffer prefers third, he understands the situation, saying Longoria is the "gold standard," someone he studies on film to see what he can incorporate into his game.

Shaffer has been more focused on adjusting to the learning curve during his first professional season, having struggled at the plate in making the big jump from Hudson Valley. He hit .213 in June for the Stone Crabs before making strides, though he is up to just .246 with five homers in 78 games.

"I think it was honestly good for me to experience a little failure, because up until then, I hadn't really experienced a whole lot of prolonged failure," Shaffer said. "I struggled a bit in the early weeks and months, and you just have to work through some adversity, stay optimistic and trust your talent."

The Rays believed Shaffer was the top college hitting talent in the draft last year, selecting the Clemson junior 25th overall. Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said it'd be Shaffer's bat that would bring him to the big leagues, and they thought he could move through the system "relatively quickly."

But after Shaffer's impressive first foray into pro ball, hitting .308 for Hudson Valley, he said he was too aggressive early on this year, striking out 44 times (with just eight walks) in his first 46 games with Charlotte.

Charlotte manager Brady Williams says Shaffer is developing as the Rays want, because he's progressing, not regressing.

"Early in the year, it looked to me like he was pressing a little bit, trying to show everybody who he is and all that kind of stuff," said Williams, son of former major-league manager Jimy Williams. "And he finally started to understand to just go out there and play, and take what's given to him."

Shaffer said other than organizing his strike zone, the biggest adjustments have been mental, not letting the slumps shake his confidence and change what has made him successful.

"When you're on the baseball field, you have to almost have the swagger about you that you're that best player on the field, even if you're on the field with a bunch of Hall of Fame legends," Shaffer said. "It helps when you start getting some of the results so you don't have to try to be blindly optimistic."

Shaffer also doesn't want to be viewed as just a hitter, taking pride in his defense at third base, which he started playing his junior year at Clemson (after playing first base his first two seasons). His lateral movement, and reading balls off the bat, have improved, and Williams says he has played an outstanding third base the past month.

Shaffer doesn't know what the Rays' plans are for him going forward. If he is asked to move, he said, he'll do what's best for the organization, but it's not on his mind daily.

"I'd be lying to say I don't have a little chip on my shoulder, because a lot of people doubted my ability to play third coming in," Shaffer said. "So I think I'm proving a lot of people wrong, and not just be an average defender, or above average, but an exceptional Gold Glove standard type of player at third. That's what my goals are."

To be just like Ripken.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Armwood High product Matt Joyce, the current A's and former Rays outfielder, hosts his ninth annual Sweet Swingin' charity baseball camp for kids 6-12 on Sunday at the North Brandon youth baseball complex (2929 S Kingsway Rd, Seffner).Registration st...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at th...
Published: 01/17/18
A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

With the start of spring training now less than a month away, here is what the Rays roster looks like, with the most glaring hole at first base, which at this point seems likely to be manned by Brad Miller, and some questions about the pitching staff...
Published: 01/17/18
Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

The Rays' March 29 season-opener against the Red Sox has been set for a 4 p.m. first pitch at Tropicana Field.This will be the ninth straight year the Rays have opened at home, and the third time they have opened against the rival Red Sox.  The ...
Published: 01/17/18
Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight    Ted Williams museum inductions

Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight Ted Williams museum inductions

Hall of Famer Tony Perez and longtime Phillies/White Sox star Dick Allen will be inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame next month in Clearwater.Former Yankees Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry and longtime Astros ace J.R. Richard also wi...
Published: 01/16/18
Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- it’s TV tidbits time

Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- it’s TV tidbits time

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best comebackExcuse Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for getting so carried away that he dropped the queen bee of curse words on live television Sun...
Published: 01/14/18
Jesuit High product Lance McCullers gets big raise, avoids arbitration

Jesuit High product Lance McCullers gets big raise, avoids arbitration

Astros right-hander Lance McCullers, a Tampa native and former Jesuit High standout, reached a one-year deal for $2.45 million on Friday, avoiding arbitration. McCullers, 24, made $548,000 last season.
Published: 01/12/18
Jake Odorizzi, Adeiny Hechavarria lone Rays set for arbitration

Jake Odorizzi, Adeiny Hechavarria lone Rays set for arbitration

ST. PETERSBURG — For the second straight winter, pitcher Jake Odorizzi is taking the Rays to arbitration.Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria will join him.They were the only two of the nine arbitration-eligible Rays to not agree to a one-year contract by Fr...
Published: 01/12/18
Odorizzi, Hechavarria heading to arbitration

Odorizzi, Hechavarria heading to arbitration

The Rays have reached agreements on 2018 contracts with seven of their nine arbitration-eligible players with pitcher Jake Odorizzi and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria heading to arbitration.Odorizzi made $4.1 million last season after taking the R...
Published: 01/12/18
Alex Colome, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi among Rays’ arbitration-eligible players

Alex Colome, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi among Rays’ arbitration-eligible players

ST. PETERSBURG — The payroll for the 2018 season will become clearer this afternoon after the Rays and their nine arbitration-eligible players exchange figures on one-year contracts.Those who do not agree to the club’s offer will head to arbitration ...
Published: 01/11/18