Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays have little controversy during spring training

The Rays got through their longest, and first long-distance, spring training with relatively little controversy and in relatively good shape, with OF Fernando Perez (dislocated left wrist) the only casualty.

Here's a quick look at the biggest issues, and how they worked out:

• The biggest health question involved closer Troy Percival, coming off back surgery after an injury-marred year. He quite frankly has looked great, allowing one hit in eight appearances.

• The most high-profile roster decision involved LHP David Price, and it went pretty much the way it was expected. Price looked good but not overwhelmingly great, and the Rays sent him back to Triple A, saying he needed some further development and they could better limit his innings.

• The biggest competitions were for the extra outfield spot (until B.J. Upton returns from the DL) and for the fifth starter/long reliever spots.

The Rays could have used a right-handed hitter, but lefty-swinging Matt Joyce made a late run to make the team, impressing manager Joe Maddon with his powerful bat and smooth defense. If he gets off to a hot start, it will be interesting to see what the Rays do when Upton returns, such as looking into trading Gabe Gross and playing Joyce in rightfield.

Jeff Niemann appears to have won the rotation battle, a product of his higher upside than Jason Hammel and the potential he could be used in relief. And the Rays seem confident Lance Cormier, who would get the long relief spot, is on the verge of consistency.

• The decision that most impacts the team is the one to move Upton to leadoff and drop Akinori Iwamura, who had a .349 on-base percentage (Upton was .383). The move may not play well in Japan, but it should make the lineup better, with a dynamic top five of Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell.

NO RESPECT: Being AL champs only brings so much privilege, the Rays found out. With spring training moved out of St. Petersburg, the Rays reversed course and asked MLB to open at home, figuring their offer of a site with no weather concerns would be welcomed. Not to MLB, which instead has the Rays opening in Boston, where it may snow.

TAMPA TWOSOME: Lou Piniella's three-year reign as Rays manager gets 34 pages of coverage (though little news) in the just-out book, Sweet Lou, by Chicago Tribune writer Melissa Issacson. … There's also a new book about Tampa's other big-name manager, Tony La Russa Man on a Mission, by St. Louis-based writer Rob Rains.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: If Upton plays, as expected, for the Class A Stone Crabs in Thursday's opener, he won't be the best player on the field in Port Charlotte: Hall of Famer Cal Ripken is throwing out the first pitch. … Using stats-based projections, ESPN's Baseball Tonight crew named LF Carl Crawford and SS Jason Bartlett the top defensive players at their positions.

Tampa Bay Rays have little controversy during spring training 04/04/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 7:57am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.