PORT CHARLOTTE — Having grown up in Seminole and stuck around the area, Joey Krehbiel figured signing with the Rays would be special.
A few spring workouts is all it took for reality to sink in.
“The first couple days I just treated it like normal and stuff, but two days ago or so I’m like, ‘Wow, this is different. I grew up with this team right down the road and I’m wearing the jersey and seeing the guys that I’m used to watching on TV and all that stuff,’ ” Krehbiel said on a Zoom call after Thursday’s workout. “So it’s eye opening.”
As has been the response from family and friends, congratulating him on the opportunity, wishing him well, saying they are looking forward to seeing him and asking about tickets, which are tougher to come by this year due to capacity limits. The chance to reunite with Seminole High teammate Brett Phillips, a Rays outfielder, also was a bonus.
“It’s awesome,” Krehbiel said.
Krehbiel, a right-handed reliever who signed a minor-league deal, already is learning a lot from pitching coach Kyle Snyder and the staff. He made it to the majors with Arizona in 2018, then spent 2019 at Triple-A and, after signing with the Twins for 2020, was idled by the pandemic shutdown. But he looked good — “Pretty nasty,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said — in a live batting practice session.
“(Snyder) has given me so much information in telling me what I’m doing right and wrong, it’s incredible,” Krehbiel said.
A couple other relievers on minor-league deals stood out during the live batting practice sessions, veteran lefty Brian Moran for his funky, sidearm-style delivery, and Stetson Allie for his overpowering fastball.
“That is some impressive stuff he’s featuring,” Cash said. “He was sitting at 97 miles an hour. Really good breaking ball. When you’ve got Tyler Glasnow sitting behind there with his eyes bugged out saying, ‘Wow,’ you’re doing something because you’re not going to find many guys that he’s overly impressed with because his stuff is so good.”
Outfielder Austin Meadows said he dropped 10 to 15 pounds based on a new diet and workout regimen — getting back to the 218-220 range he played at during his 2019 breakthrough season — and feels lighter and more athletic. And though he feels healthy and over the COVID-19 case that sidelined him last year, he said his sense of smell is still not right.
• Charlotte Sports Park workers added 2020 American League and AL East champion signs on the facade of the office building beyond the rightfield fence.
• Tickets for the Rays’ 14 spring games at the Charlotte Sports Park go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday via raysbaseball.com. Capacity will be limited to about 1,100 with distanced seating in pods of two or four.
• Tentative Rays pitchers for Sunday’s exhibition opener are Chris Ellis, Hunter Strickland, Jeffrey Springs and Andrew Kittredge. Others of note slated for work the first week include Glasnow (Monday), Michael Wacha (Tuesday), Shane McClanahan and Josh Fleming (Wednesday), Ryan Yarbrough and Luis Patino (Thursday).
• Cash said the managers and pitching coaches of the “Southwest Division” — Rays, Braves, Red Sox, Twins — will have a conference call Friday to discuss pitching plans for the initial week of exhibition games, whether to play seven or nine innings (as is a choice), a framework for rolling innings (ending them early) and other pandemic protocol-related issues, such as how much space they would have for workouts before road games. Cash said they are leaning toward taking batting practice in Port Charlotte, then heading out for the games in North Port and Fort Myers.