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Ex-Rays coach George Hendrick visits camp

Tampa Bay Rays first base coach George Hendrick (25) watches as a video about Zimmer is played on the scoreboard during a ceremony honoring Tampa Bay Rays senior baseball advisor Don Zimmer (66) prior to the start of the Seattle Mariners against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Saturday, June 7, 2014.
Tampa Bay Rays first base coach George Hendrick (25) watches as a video about Zimmer is played on the scoreboard during a ceremony honoring Tampa Bay Rays senior baseball advisor Don Zimmer (66) prior to the start of the Seattle Mariners against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Saturday, June 7, 2014.
Published Feb. 26, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE — George Hendrick stopped by Rays camp Wednesday to say hello — and goodbye.

Replaced as first-base coach and reassigned to a special adviser role with no defined duties, Hendrick, 65, said he did not expect to be around the team much so he wanted to visit before the players got too busy.

And he said that after 47 years in uniform — including four All-Star selections and two World Series championships as a player — he has had enough and was looking ahead to retirement.

Hendrick, who had a year remaining on his contract, said he was okay with the decision to drop him from the staff after manager Joe Maddon left. and he was glad to see Rocco Baldelli get his old job on new manager Kevin Cash's staff.

"They allowed me to be in the organization for nine years, and we got a lot accomplished," said Hendrick, who rarely did interviews as a coach.

"I've got no complaints. And I'll leave it at that."

DREW'S PLAN: LHP Drew Smyly didn't throw a bullpen session with the other pitchers in his group but said that was by design, not because of a health issue.

Smyly, acquired last year from Detroit, prefers a slightly different spring program than the Rays use. So rather than throw bullpen sessions every other day, he prefers to go every third day and throw more pitches, and also to skip the first week of exhibition games.

"I feel more comfortable getting my work in in bullpen sessions than just jumping into games," he said. "I'm on schedule. We're all doing the same thing. I'm just kind of upping my pitches in the 'pen sessions working on my pitches, and then I'll jump into games later on."

Smyly, who worked out a schedule with pitching coach Jim Hickey, said he will make his exhibition debut March 10 or 11. The Rays begin playing games March 5.

"It's just what I feel comfortable with to get me ready," he said.

NEW GUYS IN TOWN: RHP Ronald Belisario reported to camp, delayed only a few days by visa issues in Venezuela and pleased to be with the Rays, agreeing to a nonroster deal that would pay him $1.5 million, with up to $300,000 in incentives.

"I had a couple options, but my agent — you know how that works — he was talking to the Rays and they gave me the opportunity," Belisario said, confirming he was close to signing with Toronto first.

As a ground-ball specialist, Belisario, who spent 2009-13 with the Dodgers and 2014 with the White Sox, seems to have a solid shot at a job in the bullpen.

INF Juan Francisco also reported, saying in Spanish — with clubhouse manager Jose Fernandez translating — he picked the Rays from "multiple offers from different teams" based on the potential for at-bats at DH, 1B and 3B. Francisco, 27, agreed to a minor-league deal that will pay him $2 million, with up to $280,000 in incentives, and includes an April 5 opt-out.

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"I have better chances to play here," he said.

Those chances seem somewhat diminished with the team's subsequent acquisition of John Jaso as its primary DH, though Francisco, who looked larger than this listed 245 pounds, will have a chance to make an impression.

"He's a big man, and he hits the ball a long way," Cash said.

Only three of the 63 players had yet to report: Nonroster INF Eugenio Velez and OF Boog Powell, and RHP Alex Colome, who remains delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic.

POWER BALL: Cash sounded very high on OF Desmond Jennings and mentioned hitting him fifth or sixth in the lineup to take more advantage of his power. "Hopefully we can kind of get Desmond out of that mind frame of the leadoff hitter," Cash said. "We think there's more there."

MISCELLANY: LHP Jake McGee extended his throwing distance to 105 feet in his rehabilitation from arthroscopic elbow surgery. … Rain was expected to disrupt today's workout schedule. … Bench coach Tom Foley and RHP Kevin Jepsen are guests for tonight's Countdown to Opening Day radio show from 7-8 p.m. on WDAE-AM 620. … For Saturday's first full-squad workout (9:30 a.m. start), the Rays are hosting a fan day, with free hot dogs, autograph signings, appearances by Raymond and the Rays team, ticket specials and other activities.