Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rickie Weeks reports, says Rays can prove people wrong

PORT CHARLOTTE — Rickie Weeks reported to camp Friday, ready to begin his 14th big-league season.

Weeks spent the majority of his career as a second baseman with the Brewers then moved to the outfield in 2015 during his only year with the Mariners. He played mostly leftfield last season with the Diamondbacks. He worked Friday at first base.

The Orlando resident signed with the Rays to be closer to his family. But there was another reason.

"This team has a lot of ability to prove some people wrong and win some games," he said, "and that's what I want, the opportunity to win a lot of games."

Bigger, stronger, better

RHP Jose De Leon impressed manager Kevin Cash while throwing his first bullpen of the spring.

"To me he looks like a starting pitcher, just that big, strong legs and kind of looser upper body," Cash said. "Watching him pitch, he's got a clean delivery and a little finish at the end."

De Leon said his back pain early in the week that forced him to skip his first scheduled bullpen was due to a cold that caused him to cough and sneeze and brought on spasms.

De Leon weighs 220 pounds, up from 190 last season when he said he looked good but didn't pitch as well as he hoped. He said he began dropping weight in 2014 and noticed a jump in velocity on his fastball. But the velocity dropped to 90 mph last season.

"I feel way stronger (now)," he said. "Last year I felt in better shape than I've been in my life, but it's not about looking good or outrunning anybody. It's about throwing strikes and throwing hard."

Finally, some rest

RHP Erasmo Ramirez, slowed last week by a sore hamstring, could throw a bullpen today. Or not.

"I can't stress enough: I don't care if Erasmo doesn't get off the mound for two weeks as far as I'm concerned," manager Kevin Cash said. "The (starting pitchers), we did the extended rest (between bullpens). Erasmo, whichever way it goes, we knew given his workload (last season) we were going to utilize that extra time."

Ramirez pitched an AL-high 85 innings for a reliever and appeared in a team-high 64 games last season. The overwork contributed to his major league-high 11 losses for a reliever.

When asked if will wait until the season to burn Ramirez out, Cash joked, "Yes, exactly."

The boys are back

All 65 players are in camp after INF/OF Rickie Weeks, RHP Tommy Hunter and 3B Evan Longoria reported Friday. Manager Kevin Cash said that shows the players are committed to winning.

It also makes for better work days.

"You see much cleaner fundamentals when the pitcher is throwing to a shortstop rather than Chico, not to knock Chico," Cash said.

"Chico" is video coordinator Chris Fernandez, who helps with the early camp fielding drills, and it sure sounded like a knock.

Spring flings

. Manager Kevin Cash said the team is monitoring the workload of RHP Shawn Tolleson because of some back issues he has had in the past. Cash said Tolleson is able to throw without issue, but they will have him wait until later in camp to work on his defense.

. RHP Chris Archer, CF Kevin Kiermaier and RHP Jake Odorizzi will attend tonight's Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame induction dinner at Tropicana Field.

. After Sunday's first full-squad workout of the spring, spring training ticket holders will have the opportunity to have their pictures taken with players. Scheduled as of Friday to appear: RHP Danny Farquhar, INF Daniel Robertson, RHP Chase Whitley and RHP Erasmo Ramirez.

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 1½ 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

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