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Cabrera to Rays: Okay with short or second but please pick one

Tampa Bay Rays infielder Asdrubal Cabrera during the first official workout of Rays Spring Training at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times] 
Tampa Bay Rays infielder Asdrubal Cabrera during the first official workout of Rays Spring Training at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times] 
Published Feb. 24, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE — Free agent signee Asdrubal Cabrera reported to camp Monday saying he is okay with playing either second base or shortstop based on whatever the Rays decide is best for the team.

But he made it clear he would rather not shuffle between the two.

"I would like to stay in one position," Cabrera said. "I think it's hard for anyone to play short or second; it's not the same. You have to be ready for one of those two positions."

Cabrera, who signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract, came up as a second baseman with Cleveland but moved to short during 2009. He stayed there until traded to Washington last July 31 and moved back to second.

The Rays' decision will be based not only on how Cabrera looks at shortstop in the spring but what their options are. That could include Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin or others at short, a platoon of Franklin and Logan Forsythe at second, and other combinations that could have Cabrera going back and forth.

Manager Kevin Cash said they will ask Cabrera to "be versatile" at the start of camp and work at both positions, hoping to make the decision "the earlier the better."

Cabrera, arriving in advance of Saturday's first full-squad workout, took ground balls at both spots Monday. "We haven't talked yet about that," he said. "Any position they want me to play, I'm going to be there."

BALFOUR BEHIND: RHP Grant Balfour skipped his bullpen session and will be held back at least a few days as part of a plan to conserve his arm strength.

Balfour, 37, and team officials insisted there are no issues, noting he threw regularly off the mound at the Trop in advance of camp. "I feel good, I'm strengthening my arm every day and doing all that stuff that I know I need to do to prepare for the season," he said.

But the team decided to give him a break now and a slightly reduced workload during the exhibition season, with 8-9 appearances rather than 10-11. "It's different than last year and more like the year before that I did (in Oakland)," Balfour said. "I feel like that little tweak might make a big difference."

FOR STARTERS: Cash's first day as a manager at any level was relatively uneventful, aside from having no idea where to go as the man in charge: "I didn't know what field I was supposed to be on, so I just kind of lingered around the catchers." He led "a small welcoming discussion" during a preworkout meeting in the clubhouse," with plans for a full address on Saturday.

THE BIG 7-0: Poking fun at how much time video coordinator Chris "Chico" Fernandez spent hanging with the former manager, the Rays made him wear Joe Maddon's No. 70 on the field Monday, with JR. in the nameplate. "Chico's a good sport,'' Cash said. "It was entertaining, I think, for the guys.'' And for Maddon, who was texted several photos at Cubs camp. … Commissioner Rob Manfred said MLB hopes to conclude its investigation by opening day into whether the Cubs tampered with Maddon before he opted out of his contract with the Rays. "It's easy to do a quick investigation and reach a quick decision,'' Manfred said in Arizona. "Our preference here, because it is a very important issue in terms of the way that the clubs interact with each other was to do a very, very thorough investigation and make sure we make the right decision.''

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MISCELLANY: Two pitchers were absent due to visa issues: Nonroster RHP Ronald Belisario is expected in the next few days from Venezuela, and RHP Alex Colome will be delayed longer in the Dominican Republic, but he is working out at the team complex there. … With Cabrera and Franklin reporting, 54 of the 63 Rays are in camp. … RHP Alex Cobb and Smyly were among the 15 pitchers throwing bullpens.