ST. PETERSBURG — After returning to his native Japan following the mid-March spring training shutdown, new Rays outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo had plenty of time to think.
He contemplated his first spring training in the major leagues, what he could do better when workouts resumed and whether he should stay home and sit out the season.
“I did have that thought,‘' Tsutsugo said Monday at the Trop on a Zoom call. “But I’m doing the best I can to avoid catching coronavirus and I’m looking forward to being part of the Rays and play this season.‘'
Speaking on a Zoom call with athletic trainer Tsutomu Kamiya interpreting, Tsutsugo, 28, said the commitment to the team and the opportunity to play in the majors, plus the opportunity to provide inspiration to others, convinced him to return.
“Now that I’m officially a Ray, that’s the biggest deciding factor,‘' he said. “I wanted to come back and play and contribute to the victories.‘'
Manager Kevin Cash said there has been no talk among any Rays players about opting out that he is aware of.
“I have yet to hear anything of players contemplating that,‘' Cash said. “Certainly they are aware of what’s going on throughout other players’ minds and situations for the most part but so far I have not heard any of that discussion.‘'
Roe joins group on the field
Reliever Chaz Roe on Monday joined the Rays players on the field for the first time since camp opened Friday, playing catch in the outfield, while wearing a mask, toward the end of the four-hour workout window.
Roe was one of five players who had not been seen on the field; others that appear to be still missing are outfielder Randy Arozarena, infielder Jose Martinez and pitchers Yonny Chirinos and Tyler Glasnow. Outfielder Austin Meadows was at Friday’s workout but has not been seen on the field since.
The team has declined to say who has been present or absent, citing union-mandated privacy issues, which leads to speculation if absences are COVID-19 related, such as a positive test, delayed results, showing symptoms or exposure to someone else infected. Players can give permission for the team to release that information.
Another factor is that some players do workouts in areas of the Trop out of sight to the media as Charlie Morton did on Monday. Or they could just get a day off. Overall, 30 players worked out Monday.
Outfielder Hunter Renfroe, acquired in a trade from San Diego, said having three weeks of workouts at the Trop is an advantage, providing ample experience for him, and fellow newcomers Manuel Margot and Tsutsugo, to learn the nuances of the Trop, such as the turf, lights, warning track and configuration.
“It’s great to get used to it in this amount of time and it’s going to help for the future for sure,” he said.
Quote of the day
“They make me swing hard, too, so I want them to stop.‘'
OF Yoshi Tsutsugo, joking about being in a homer happy batting practice group with Yandy Diaz and Hunter Renfroe
The Rays plan to step up the intensity of the workouts this week, moving some live batting practice sessions from the lab area under the stands to the main field Tuesday, then staging simulated games Wednesday and Thursday and possibly the first intrasquad game during the weekend. …. Morton and Ryan Yarbrough are slated for most of the pitching work Wednesday, with the infielders doing the hitting, then the outfielders getting a turn on Thursday. … There is obvious mutual benefit in live batting practice and sim games (which are broken into innings and can have defensive plays), and an important secondary one, getting the position players used to being on their feet for long periods. … Diego Castillo was among pitchers throwing to hitters Monday, and Cash said he was apparently quite sharp based on the reaction of shortstop Willy Adames, who faced him: “Willy came back with his eyes opened really, really wide like it was nasty stuff.‘'