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New Ray Kevin Jepsen adjusting to new environment

Kevin Jepsen spent his entire 13-year pro career with the Angels until a December trade to the Rays. [Getty Images]
Published Feb. 19, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE — Having spent his entire 13-year pro career with the Angels until a December trade, RHP Kevin Jepsen had to deal with quite a bit new heading to his first spring training with the Rays.

First was packing, as he lives in Arizona and had been driving just the 20 minutes from home to the Angels' facility in Tempe. "I was sitting there waiting until the last second because I didn't even know where to start," he said. "It's crazy. I got to the airport and I had like six bags. I had to rent one of those carts to load everything up. I felt like a mess."

Another was driving a rental car — as his truck is being shipped — to get to the Rays' Port Charlotte facility, where he joined more than a dozen of his new teammates working out Wednesday in advance of Monday's first official session.

"Just driving here, I had to plug the address into my phone," Jepsen said. "Then I pulled into the wrong parking lot and had to ask one of the grounds crews guys where to go. It's different. I've been with the Angels since 2002, so you know everybody, you're going to the same place. It's such an easy thing being with one team so long."

Then, most jarring, was walking into the clubhouse.

"It's all blue," he said. "I'm used to all red. So everything I have I'm trying to throw out — shoes, gloves, it's all red."

Jepsen, 30, said he had some nerves on his way to the field, a combination of excitement and anxiety. Rays closer Jake McGee, whom he grew up with in Nevada, had been filling him in, but he still wanted to get down early. "Just kind of want to get started, see how it goes," Jepsen said.

As weird as it felt, Jepsen, acquired for OF Matt Joyce, said he also felt welcomed. "Everybody's been so great, making an effort to come up and introduce themselves," he said. "You kind of get the feeling that's why the Rays do so well, because that's what they do, just embrace everybody."

Among other first impressions, Jepsen liked having some humidity, which helps the pitchers; was already joking about getting out of the longer bus trips; and was eager to explore some of the Florida habitat.

"I'm excited," he said, "to see an alligator for the first time."

CHECKING IN: McGee was among the pitchers working out, playing catch from 90 feet as he continues his rehab from offseason arthroscopic elbow surgery. He's eyeing an April return.

INF Hak-Ju Lee is coming off a 2014 in which he returned from a serious knee injury but didn't do much on the field. Lee headed to the batting cage looking spry: "I'm ready to go."

Other players working out Wednesday included: Cs Curt Casali, Rene Rivera; DH John Jaso; INFs Tim Beckham, Vince Belnome; OFs Brandon Guyer, David DeJesus; Ps Jeff Beliveau, Nate Karns, Kirby Yates, C.J. Riefenhauser, Mike Montgomery, Grayson Garvin, Matt Andriese.

NUMBERS GAME: Among the new numbers, and numbers for new Rays: Beckham will wear 1, non-roster INF Alexi Casilla 10, INF Asdrubal Cabrera 13, INF Logan Forsythe 11, Casali 19, OF Steven Souza 20, Jaso 28, Jepsen 40, Rivera 44.

TV TIME: Six Rays spring games will be televised: March 19 vs. Twins, March 26 vs. Yankees, April 4 vs. Tigers (from Trop) on Sun Sports; March 28 vs. Red Sox on Fox Sports Florida; March 29 vs. Red Sox and April 3 vs. Tigers on MLB Network.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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