PORT CHARLOTTE — SS Tim Beckham and LHP Jake McGee were sent to minor-league camp last week so the Rays could concentrate on what's most important now: getting the players who will be key parts of this year's team ready for the season.
The same will happen soon enough for OF Desmond Jennings, RHPs Jeremy Hellickson and Heath Rollins and, likely, at least one from the group of Reid Brignac, Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez. Plus maybe Wade Davis (or Andy Sonnanstine), too.
So as much consternation as there is over the probable departures of LF Carl Crawford, 1B Carlos Peña and others at the end of the season, there is also something of a confirmation of what the Rays have been saying, and doing, given their dual efforts to be competitive now while always building for the future.
"The question comes up a lot about, 'We've got to do it this year;' I feel that way about every year," manager Joe Maddon said. "But you look at 2010 right here, and the peripheral vision sees '11, '12 and '13; that's pretty bright. These guys are as good as I've heard.
"And not only because they're physically good, but their personalities, their character, their makeup is exceptional. The scouting and minor-league development side have done a great job with these guys. … They're good, and they're being raised right."
ON THE GREENS: RHP James Shields is excited about playing with John Daly in Monday's Transitions Championship pro-am, and is even willing to wear the same colorful style pants Daly favors. But Shields says putting with a few hundred watching is much more nerve-wracking than pitching in front of 60,000. "I feel a little more confident in my ability to play baseball than golf," he said.
IN THE CITY: Pat Burrell shared an interesting theory with the Philadelphia Inquirer about missing the passion of playing in a big city: "I don't know if there is any way of saying this without getting myself in trouble. But there is definitely a different excitement level (in Philadelphia). I think more than anything, there is a stronger tradition for baseball there. That goes without saying."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Opening day is still not sold out, which is not an encouraging sign for ticket sales. … On SIRIUS XM's Mad Dog Radio, principal owner Stuart Sternberg said the Rays lost "significant amounts" of money last year and will lose "a good amount" this year, too. … From Baseball Prospectus' profile of Cuban defector signee 1B/OF Leslie Anderson: "More of a pure hitter than a pure slugger; average power at best, but he knows how to get a bat on a ball, and unlike most Cubans has a definitely sense of the strike zone. Good athlete, profiles best in a corner." … Saturday's autograph signing organized by Evan Longoria raised $15,950 for a Tampa woman recently diagnosed with cancer, including $5,400 from the Rays for 216 balls that will be donated to charities. … ESPN's Buster Olney pegs the Rays for a good start with the AL's second-easiest early schedule.