ST. PETERSBURG — Though activities will be extremely limited, the Rays expect a large turnout of about 15-20 players at Tropicana Field for Monday’s first workout since the coronavirus shutdown.
Players basically will be limited to playing catch, running and doing light, free-weight work and other exercises on the turf field, with no access to the batting cages, bullpen mounds, weight room or clubhouse. But they will be together — although 6 feet apart and for three days a week — for the first workout at a team facility since March 17 in Port Charlotte. Negotiations between the league and players union, meanwhile, continue for a possible July start to the season.
“I’m excited,” manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s a step in the right direction. There’s a lot that still has to be discussed and agreed upon, but any time we can get back to some sense of what we were accustomed to, and that’s at least having access to our building, it’s going to be beneficial to our players.”
Players will report to the Trop at staggered times and be paired off to work out in different sections of the field, with Cash, coaches and athletic trainers watching. Equipment will be designated for individual use, with a premium on health and safety protocols.
Because activities will be so limited initially, the Rays told players who went to their offseason homes — such as outfielder Hunter Renfroe to Mississippi and recently pitcher Blake Snell to Seattle — they should not rush back, especially if they have a workout routine in place, until there is further direction from the league.
Pitching coach Kyle Snyder has been checking in with his guys regularly via text, phone and video, and knows some have been working out together, but said getting to come back to the Trop will be a bonus for all parties.
“The physical interaction, the dialogue, being able to put your eyes on some of these guys even though there have been certain instances when we have remoted in (via video) ... it’s certainly going to make a pretty significant difference considering the human side of it,” he said Friday on a Zoom media call.
“I think a lot of these guys are eager to see one another physically, play some catch, get back on the the Trop field and feel like we’re taking some steps forward.”
Hitting coach Chad Mottola said similarly that the position players won’t get as much out of the work they do at the Trop as just being there. He noted, for example, that new outfielder Manuel Margot has been living with shortstop Willy Adames and “staring at each other," and that new acquisition Jose Martinez had recently moved to the area.
“It’s one of those things that they’ve been pent up so long ... this way they get to see a couple new faces, even passing each other in the parking lot,” Mottola said. "It’s more to have kind of a human touch, of okay, I have a different scene to finally train.
“It’s one of those things, they’re all self-driven pretty hard, but at the same time we’re human, we need a little different scenery to get some blood flow. So just standing on the Trop turf will make you work a little harder. So it’s not necessarily for mechanics it’s just to get some fresh blood.”