ST. PETERSBURG — Most of the work the Rays have done in Spring 2.0 camp has focused on the standard stuff: ground balls for the fielders, swings for the hitters, simulated innings for the pitchers.
But they also have to get ready for some of the things that will make this season most unusual, such as having no fans in the stands, and what will be tried to ease the adjustments.
That will start during Thursday’s five- to six-inning intrasquad game, when they get their first sample of the piped-in crowd sounds Major League Baseball is providing teams.
The base track is somewhat white noise, but can be turned up in response to a good play, and be adjusted by each team. Several teams have been trying it out this week, with the expected mixed reviews.
The Rays also will play around with mixing in some music (to try to energize the players) and scoreboard effects (like the home run horn) at the Trop under Michael Weinman, the game presentation and production manager.
“We’ll have some music and some crowd noise that gives our guys … an opportunity to kind of tinker, make adjustments, thumbs up/thumbs down, different thoughts,” manager Kevin Cash said.
“As far as crowd noise goes, I don’t know how that’s going to be determined, whether that comes from the individual club or that comes from MLB. I don’t know what they’re going to do and I really don’t care one way or the other. It’s not that big of a deal.”
While the sound is being added for aesthetic purposes, there are some strategic issues as well, providing some cover for normal dugout and onfield discussions and even sounds like a catcher shifting position right before a pitch.
Z marks the spot
Catcher Mike Zunino continues to show benefits of the offseason adjustments he made to his hitting style and took into the first spring training, hitting two homers in Wednesday’s simulated game. “The last couple days I’ve been working a lot with (hitting coach Chad Mottola) trying to get everything back that we were able to sort of get going in spring,” he said.
Nate Lowe relayed an amusing story about younger brother Josh, an outfielder who played last season at Double-A, when he got the news that he also was included in the Rays’ 60-player pool. “(Cash called me) and said he didn’t he didn’t have Josh’s number, and I said, ‘Well, I could just put him on the phone if you want, we do live together,‘” Nate Lowe said. “So I just walked across the hall. … Super cool moment for sure.” … Outfielder Manuel Margot appreciated the invite to move in with shortstop Willy Adames after spring training was suspended, and spent the shutdown with him. Who did most of the cooking? “I tried to cook,” Margot said, via translator Manny Navarro. “But Willy was able to call his mom a lot more and ask for some advice.”
Quote of the day
“I may or may not have whispered something to him when I ran behind the mound.”
— Catcher Mike Zunino, on homering off prospect Shane McClanahan, a fellow Cape Coral product
Relievers Jose Alvarado, Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks and Chaz Roe were among those who threw outside Wednesday, Cash noting, “A lot of heat coming out.” …. Lefties Josh Fleming, Sean Gilmartin and McClanahan worked the three-plus-inning simulated game at the Trop. … Cash said Joey Wendle, like Zunino, is trending well at the plate. … Workouts will shift to late afternoon/early evening starting Monday as the Rays play three days of instrasquad games in advance of the July 24 opener.