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The pushup king, ghost hugs and 58 more things to know about these Rays

Discover their backgrounds, paths to the majors, highlights, history-making achievements and more.
The Tampa Bay Rays' Willy Adames celebrates in the dugout after hitting a home run in his major-league debut off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale on May 22, 2018.
The Tampa Bay Rays' Willy Adames celebrates in the dugout after hitting a home run in his major-league debut off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale on May 22, 2018. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press (2018) ]
Published Jul. 17, 2020

With so much uncertain and unusual about this season, final roster decisions won’t be made until just before Friday’s opener. Here’s a look at the team, players and staff, with credit to the Rays’ info-packed media guide for some of the personal nuggets:

Shortstop Willy Adames started his big-league career with a bang, homering off Boston’s Chris Sale in the second at-bat of his first game, May 22, 2018. He was the fifth Ray to homer in his debut, joining Brent Abernathy, Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes and Brandon Guyer.

Related: The 2020 season* will be different. The Rays don’t care.

Lefty reliever Jose Alvarado made history on June 26, 2018 — by playing first base. After walking Washington lefty Bryce Harper to open the ninth with a 1-0 lead, Alvarado moved to first base so righty Chaz Roe could face Anthony Rendon, then Alvarado went back to the mound to face two more lefties. That made him the first Rays pitcher to play another position — and the first big-league pitcher to also play first in a nine-inning game since Chuck Crim for Milwaukee in 1989.

Outfielder Randy Arozarena wore No. 66 in St. Louis in tribute to fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. With 66 retired by the Rays for Don Zimmer, he chose 56.

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Nick Anderson works out while attending the summer camp July 6.
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Nick Anderson works out while attending the summer camp July 6. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]

Reliever Nick Anderson played at two colleges, then four years in independent leagues before getting his first chance in pro ball at age 25.

Lefty Anthony Banda is not one to stick to baseball. He built his own gaming PC after watching YouTube videos, collects Pokeman cards (still seeking a first-edition holographic Charizard), gets large tattoos (both arms, chest) and cuts hair.

Lefty Jalen Beeks has a career 11-4 record but the best winning streak in Rays history — getting W’s in 10 straight decisions over two seasons.

Related: 60 things that will make this MLB season different

Infielder/outfielder Mike Brosseau came out of Oakland University in Michigan to become the seventh U.S.-born undrafted free agent to sign with the Rays and make his big-league debut for them, joining Jorge Cantu, Trevor Enders, Lee Gardner, Elliot Johnson, Brian Stokes, Kirby Yates.

Kevin Cash, 42, is in his sixth season managing the Rays and is — somehow — the third-longest tenured manager in the majors with his current team, behind only Bob Melvin, in his 10th season with the A’s, and good buddy Terry Francona, in his eighth in Cleveland.

Tampa Bay Rays reliever Diego Castillo delivers a pitch in the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics in last season's American League wild card game.
Tampa Bay Rays reliever Diego Castillo delivers a pitch in the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics in last season's American League wild card game. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Reliever Diego Castillo is used to sharing: He is the youngest of 10 children, with six brothers and three sisters. Related: He learned to cook at age 10.

Right-hander Yonny Chirinos was the pitcher on the mound at Yankee Stadium last July when New York manager Aaron Boone unleashed his now infamous “savages in the box” tirade at umpire Brennan Miller.

First baseman Ji-Man Choi is one of the most personable and entertaining Rays despite the language barrier. The South Korean native, per the Rays media guide, also “is terrified of ghosts and believes to have had many encounters with them, including hugs and whispers.”

Related: Rays fans prepare, with caution, for shortened season

Outfielder Dylan Cozens committed to the University of Arizona to play baseball and football — his dad, Randy, had been drafted by the Broncos — before signing with the Phillies.

Reliever John Curtiss, who plays guitar and is an aspiring country music singer/songwriter, performed the anthem before a game when with Minnesota’s Triple-A Rochester team in 2018.

Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz takes a moment in the dugout just prior to the Rays' American League wild card game last October.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz takes a moment in the dugout just prior to the Rays' American League wild card game last October. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Infielder Yandy Diaz has massive biceps, so big his workouts were featured in a Men’s Journal article headlined: “Yandy Diaz is Seriously Jacked.”

Reliever Oliver Drake was studying quantitative economics at the U.S Naval Academy for two years before being drafted by the Orioles in June 2008, and withdrew to try baseball. He made history in 2018 as the first to pitch for five teams in the same season — Angels, Blue Jays, Brewers, Indians, Twins.

Jonathan Erlichman — known as J-Money — is in his second season as the game’s only “process and analytics” coach. Also, likely the only one with a math degree from Princeton.

Related: Experts say the Rays are World Series-bound. Do you agree?

Lefty Josh Fleming in 2017 became the first player drafted from Division III Webster University, the St. Louis-based home of the Gorlocks. (Spoiler alert: A mythical creature with cheetah paws, buffalo horns and a Saint Bernard’s face.)

Reliever Pete Fairbanks scored 34 (out of 36) on the ACT and was studying mechanical engineering at Missouri with eyes on designing military aircraft before being draft by the Rangers in 2015.

Infielder Lucius Fox, along with fellow Bahamian Todd Isaacs Jr., founded the Don’t Blink apparel company “on the premise of a subconscious activity and how it relates to results in life,” seeking to build “a dynamic, efficient and evolutionary platform that ignites flames, inspires creativity, creates a desire to capitalize on the present moment whilst displaying selfless acts of patriotism.”

As the game’s consensus No. 1 prospect at 19, shortstop Wander Franco has a great chance to make a name for himself. Though, it should be noted, his two older brothers are also named Wander, as is his father, and all played pro ball.

Reliever Sean Gilmartin’s wife has been in the news quite a bit lately: Tampa native Kayleigh McEnany is press secretary to President Trump, and a little busy.

The Rays' Tyler Glasnow warms up in practice during the start of initial spring training in Port Charlotte on Feb. 13.
The Rays' Tyler Glasnow warms up in practice during the start of initial spring training in Port Charlotte on Feb. 13. [ Times ]

Pitcher Tyler Glasnow grew 11 inches in high school, now standing 6 feet 8 and wearing a size 16 shoe. Yet he is athletic enough to still be able to do a standing backflip. Also, he has the words “No Juice” tattooed on the inside of his lip, a nod to rapper Boosie.

Catcher Chris Herrmann had a memorable debut with his last team, returning from spring knee surgery to join the A’s June 2, 2019, and in his second at-bat hitting a grand slam. No player in the A’s first 100-plus years had a slam in their first game for the team.

Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier prides himself on his stellar defense, with one Platinum and three Gold Gloves his most valued trophies. He is also quite proud of his bowfishing skills, and from his custom boat, Outlaw Bowfishing, he set a personal best during the offseason with a 43-pound buffalo carp.

Related: 2020 MLB preview for every team in 60 words

Relievers are used to answering calls to duty. Andrew Kittredge got two on the same June day last year, one to re-join the Rays from Triple-A Durham, the other that his wife, Tobey, was about to have their baby in Washington state. Eight hours and two flights later he made it in time to welcome baby Brooks.

Reliever Aaron Loup has done well pitching parts of eight seasons in the majors. But his most historic moment came Aug. 3, 2012, when during a 15-inning game he became the first Jays pitcher to bat in an AL game in their then 36-year history. He grounded out.

Put infielder Brandon Lowe atop the list of players who got family help during the shutdown. That’s because his wife, Madison, a former softball player at Maryland, pitched to him in the makeshift batting cage set up in their garage. Now he gets fringe benefits of her new custom Sweet and Lowe Bakery business.

The Rays' Nate Lowe, left, smiles while on deck with Manuel Margot in the cage during a workout July 7.
The Rays' Nate Lowe, left, smiles while on deck with Manuel Margot in the cage during a workout July 7. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Infielder Nate Lowe comes from an athletic family: His dad, David, was drafted by the Mariners but opted for an appointment to the Naval Academy and his younger brother, Josh, is a promising Rays outfield prospect after being a first-round pick in 2016. Nate was taken in the 13th round.

Brandon is the one who pronounces his name to rhyme with WOW; Nate and Josh go with the more traditional Lowe as in ROW.

Outfielder Manuel Margot, acquired in February from San Diego, is also from an athletic family: Three of his nine brothers also signed to play pro ball — Emilio (Dodgers), Junior (Indians), Pedro (A’s).

Infielder Jose Martinez, acquired from St. Louis, is one to get a rally brewing, and the coffee. Partnering with the Primos company, he has his own Cafecito brand, with proceeds to charity.

Related: Rays’ Stuart Sternberg: Maybe this season can be even more special

Lefty Shane McClanahan was a first-round pick from USF after a 2018 season he started with a school-record 31 2/3-inning streak of not allowing an earned run, including the first six innings — with 15 Ks — of a combined no-hitter vs. Army.

Brendan McKay’s skills as a two-way player lead to some historical notations. He became just the fourth player since 1913 to make his first two big-league starts as a pitcher (June 29, 2019) and non-pitcher (DH, July 1). The others: Shohei Ohtani (2018), Syd Cohen (1934), Carl East (1915/1924).

Austin Meadows doesn’t make all his catches in the outfield. He is a passionate fisherman, spending most days during the quarantine on the water in a boat, his biggest catch being a 130-pound tarpon.

Meadows, the 2019 co-team MVP, was also among their most creative in working out during the down time, posting videos of doing weightlifting curls with his dog, and jumping on to his truck and out of a pool.

Pitcher Charlie Morton has talents that go beyond his work on the mound. Among them: He writes songs, plays guitar and has been a wedding singer. (Well, once for a friend.) He built the kitchen table at the family home in Bradenton. He is serious barbecue chef. And a busy dad; he and Cindy have four kids under 8: Cam, Grace, Benji, Emelia.

The Rays' Travis d'Arnaud, left, is greeted by hitting coach Chad Mottola after hitting a two-run home run against the Detroit Tigers last June.
The Rays' Travis d'Arnaud, left, is greeted by hitting coach Chad Mottola after hitting a two-run home run against the Detroit Tigers last June. [ CARLOS OSORIO | Associated Press (2019) ]

Hitting coach Chad Mottola was the first player in UCF history to be selected in the June draft in 1992, taken fifth overall by the Reds. With the next pick, the Yankees took a guy named Derek Jeter.

Outfielder/first baseman Brian O’Grady, acquired from Cincinnati, got his first taste of high-level competition early, losing a home run derby as an 11-year-old to eventual NL MVP Bryce Harper.

Catcher Michael Perez has a very specific pre-game routine, swinging a bat 10 times with his left hand, then 10 with his right before taking a few regular cuts.

When reliever Colin Poche was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Rays as a Double-A reliever on May 1, 2018, he didn’t have to go far — just across the stadium as his old Jackson (Tenn.) team was hosting his new Montgomery (Ala.) team.

Bench coach Matt Quatraro was inducted into his Bethlehem Central (N.Y.) High Hall of Fame in 2017 with the more famous Megyn Kelly, then a Fox News anchor.

Related: How the Rays built their present bright future

Outfielder Hunter Renfroe, acquired from San Diego, had an interesting big-league debut pinch-hitting on Sept. 21, 2016: The first player in more than 15 years to be intentionally walked in his first career plate appearance.

Also, after getting social media messages from confused fans, Renfroe reached out to former Clemson and now Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow, and they’ve since become friends.

Before making it as a big-league pitcher, Trevor Richards was a substitute teacher, worked at a brewery and pursued joining the U.S. Border Patrol. He is the sixth player from tiny Drury University (Springfield, Mo.) to make the majors, the first since Rod Kanehl debuted in 1962.

Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Daniel Robertson fields a ground ball to first base during summer camp.
Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Daniel Robertson fields a ground ball to first base during summer camp. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]

Infielder Daniel Robertson has a tattoo on his upper right arm with the initials of his dad, Don, who died of cancer in September 2013, and his inspirational advice: “Believe you belong.‘'

Reliever Chaz Roe has interesting bloodlines: His dad, Donald, played high school sports against his boss, Rays bullpen coach Stan Boroski, then football at the University of Kentucky. Better still, his great uncle is Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski.

Joe Ryan was named the team’s minor-league pitcher of the year in 2019, striking out 183 batters in 123 2/3 innings. As part of his warmup routine, he does a swimmer’s style stretch on the mound before each inning,

Reliever Ryan Sherriff already had a Rays connection before signing on. In August 2017 he made his big-league debut for the Cardinals against the Rays. And because it was Player’s Weekend and most jerseys had nicknames, his matchup with Kevin Kiermaier provided Sherriff vs. Outlaw.

Catcher Kevan Smith played three seasons of football at Pitt, starting three games at quarterback in 2007 and appearing in three other games before switching full time to baseball.

Starter Blake Snell is a gamer, spending much of his free time playing video games, streaming his play on his famous Twitch channel with 33,600 followers. He showed his skill, winning the MLB The Show players tournament in May.

The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner also has something of a shoe fetish, owning more than 400 pairs since he started buying them in seventh grade. He has also started collecting cleats from other athletes that he displays in the gaming room of his Seattle-area house, which is outfitted with four monitors.

Pitcher D.J. Snelten got signed in the most modern way: The Rays saw his bullpen videos on Twitter and followed up, marking their first Internet hookup.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder worked with Cash before — they were teammates with the Red Sox in 2007-08, and Cash caught him six times.

This is the 15th season under the ownership and management of Stuart Sternberg and associates. Since re-branding from Devil Rays in 2008, the Rays have a 1,041-904 record and .535 winning percentage that is fifth best in the majors over that span, making the playoffs five times and winning 90-plus games seven times, second behind only the Dodgers’ eight.

Pitcher Ryan Thompson, a 2018 minor-league acquisition from Houston, is the second Rays player with that name. Ryan Thompson the outfielder, who played parts of nine seasons in the majors, signed with the Devil Rays in January 2003, but lasted only a few games at Triple-A Durham.

First base coach Ozzie Timmons does pushups in the dugout during the eighth inning of a 2018 game against the Baltimore Orioles.
First base coach Ozzie Timmons does pushups in the dugout during the eighth inning of a 2018 game against the Baltimore Orioles. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press ]

On May 29, 2018, first base coach Ozzie Timmons started doing 10 pushups in the dugout for every Rays run. The total to date (including playoffs): 12,880.

Outfielder/third baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo, signed as a free agent, will be the fourth Japan native to play for the Rays, following Hideo Nomo (2005), Akinori Iwamura (2007-09), Hideki Matsui (2012).

Infielder Joey Wendle often gets called “Mendle” — a mistake made on an MLB Network graphic projecting the 2018 starting lineup — that Cash and teammates seized on. Wendle joined in, making that his Player’s Weekend nickname.

Pitcher Ryan Yarbrough grew up in Lakeland a Rays fan, and after being acquired from Seattle found the Scott Kazmir jersey and 2008 World Series gear he wore as a kid.

Catcher Mike Zunino has a good pedigree: His dad, Greg, was an outfielder drafted by the Yankees who spent two years in the minors before going to play in Italy. His mom, Paola, was a catcher on the Italian national softball team.