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Corey Dickerson expects to add 'thump' to Rays

New Rays OF/DH Corey Dickerson takes batting practice during a workout at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
Published Feb. 11, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Corey Dickerson made his first appearance Wednesday with the dozen or so Rays who have been working out at the Trop, but he needed no formal introduction. The sound of the ball coming off his bat and rattling around when it eventually crashed down in the seats made it clear.

Dickerson is the biggest piece in a major reconstruction the Rays did to a lineup that finished 14th in the American League in runs last year, joined by Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Steve Pearce and, depending on how the catching situation works out, potentially Hank Conger.

"It seems like there's definitely some thump they brought through the door," starter Matt Moore said.

Manager Kevin Cash is excited to think about what the additions can do when added to a returning core that includes Evan Longoria, Logan Forsythe, Steven Souza Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, Curt Casali and a supposedly healthy Desmond Jennings.

"The biggest thing is it lengthens us out a little bit," Cash said. "There were plenty of times last year where we fell short. That's not discrediting any of our players that we had out there, but we have some established hitters now that are going to lengthen and balance out our lineup."

Cash at the least will have more potent options in seeking to maximize matchups, especially against right-handed pitching, and overall right-left balance along with better depth for in-game moves. Plus, the new hitters should fit into the more aggressive — and successful — approach the Rays adopted in the second half of last season.

Hitting coach Derek Shelton said he was excited because the additions allow the Rays to field "different" and more "versatile" lineups. Longoria was more direct.

"I think we're obviously better off than we were last year as far as the offense goes," he said from a New York promotional appearance for Topps baseball cards. "We'll have many more options to choose from, and we'll hopefully have a lot of depth, so I'm excited to get into spring and see how it all shakes out."

Part of that sorting out when they get to Port Charlotte next week will be determining how best to deploy their new weapons, such as how often to use Pearce against right-handed pitchers and Dickerson vs. lefties. They also have to find a new home for displaced first baseman James Loney.

Dickerson showed in his initial batting practice session the smooth swing and power that led the Rays to swap reliever Jake McGee to Colorado to get him, with visions of 30-plus homers and overall solid production.

"It's impressive — the ball comes off his bat hot," Shelton said. "The path to his swing is really good. He's got that natural left-handed kind of uppercut type swing, but he's got some bat speed. The bat is coming through the zone.

"And I think the biggest thing, taking away the bat speed and taking away the swing path, is how aggressive he is. Even when you watch him in the cage today, you watch him on the field, he's not getting cheated. He's letting it fly, and that's a good thing."

Dickerson, 26, acknowledged that the dome, and specifically the catwalks, might take some getting used to. But he said he welcomes the coming adjustments as he switches leagues, environments (and altitudes) and seemingly roles, with most of his at-bats presumably coming at DH. He was also excited to meet some of his new teammates, chatting for a while with ace Chris Archer.

"I'm definitely excited about the changes," Dickerson said. "I've got to look at it as a new journey in my life. The way I play the game is all out. I really care about and am passionate about hitting, so I don't really look at DH or playing any differently. I want to be out there to play and be able to swing the bat and help my teammates. That's the really big thing. …

"Hopefully I can put up the numbers and just stay healthy and be out there, and I think my numbers will speak for themselves at the end of the year."

The Rays are certainly counting on it adding up to something special.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

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