Rays installing new turf at Tropicana Field for 2017

This turf installed in 2011 will have similarities to the new turf, including blade fibers, but a shallower fill should keep the blades standing up more.
This turf installed in 2011 will have similarities to the new turf, including blade fibers, but a shallower fill should keep the blades standing up more.
Published Feb. 9, 2017

The Rays are planning to install new artificial turf at Tropicana Field that they expect will feel, play and look better.

The new surface — from Shaw Sports Turf, pending final contract details — will have a similar fiber blade and rubber infill as the current AstroTurf, installed in 2011, but also improvements, such as a hard foam pad between the field and the stadium's concrete base to lessen wear and tear on fielders.

"Unsurprisingly, turf technology has evolved in the last five years," team president Brian Auld said, "and we think the new turf will be better for our players' bodies and play a little truer, and aesthetically will be an improvement on TV and in person."

The turf will be "a touch darker," Auld said, which the Rays hope will prevent it from looking washed out, especially on TV. It also features shallower fill, which should keep the blades standing up and create less "splash" when a ball hits.

The Rays are paying the nearly $1 million for the turf and installation. "We continue to invest in Tropicana Field," Auld said. "It's our home, and we want to make it the best venue we can for Major League Baseball."

After looking at samples from four companies, the Rays chose Shaw to provide the fifth surface in 20 seasons under the tilted dome. They began play in 1998 on flat AstroTurf, went to a more grasslike FieldTurf surface in 2000 and an improved version in 2007, then made the 2011 switch to AstroTurf, which was installed for free as part of an MLB sponsorship deal.

The new surface is expected to be ready for players to test the final week of spring training. As part of the deal, the Rays are also installing a turf infield and practice area at their Port Charlotte training facility.

In other Rays news:

•They added catching depth by acquiring Jesus Sucre from Seattle for cash or a player to be named. Sucre, 28, spent parts of the past four seasons with the Mariners, compiling a .209 average and .522 OPS in 90 games, and a reputation as a solid receiver and strong thrower. But he was dropped from their roster last week, and thus didn't require the Rays to make room on their 40-man roster. He joins Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Michael McKenry in competing for playing time until Wilson Ramos' expected summer return from knee surgery.

•Three pitchers were selected to play in the March World Baseball Classic: lefty reliever Jose Alvarado for Venezuela, starter Chris Archer for the United States and closer Alex Colome for the Dominican Republic. Jose De Leon, the prospect acquired from the Dodgers for Logan Forsythe, was named to Puerto Rico's reserve list and could be used in the second or third rounds.

•Shortstop Matt Duffy was cleared for full baseball activities after having his surgically repaired left heel checked Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C., by surgeon Bob Anderson, and he joined 20-plus other Rays working out Wednesday in Port Charlotte.

•Free agent right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who will spend this year recovering from Tommy John surgery, remains an intriguing option on a multiyear deal.