PORT CHARLOTTE — Bringing back Chris Archer, and bringing in veterans such as Rich Hill and Michael Wacha, has added a compendium of baseball and life experiences, wisdom, savvy and perspective to the Rays clubhouse, particularly among the pitchers.
And there is Collin McHugh, who has lived with the regret of being party to ― and technically part of — the 2017 cheating scandal, where members of the Astros stole and relayed opposing pitchers’ signs to their hitters.
McHugh, like his good friend and former Astros teammate Charlie Morton confessed when he came to the Rays in 2019, said he was aware of what was happening and wishes now he would have tried somehow to stop it.
“Obviously it was a hard situation for anybody who was there, especially pitchers,” McHugh said last week. “Me and Charlie talked a lot about it, and a lot of the guys who were still there talked a lot about it. As pitchers you go about your day, you try and do your job the best you can. In that scenario, I think we all wish we could and would have done something more.
“I don’t know if it would have worked, I don’t know if anything would have stopped what would happen from our perspective. But I think guys across the league can take it as an example that there’s a certain amount of bravery that it takes, not just to be a baseball player but to be a man of integrity, and to be a man of character.
“And I think we’ve all learned a lot from it. I think baseball has learned a lot from it. Hopefully we can be an example moving forward of what it means to move through this game and move through this world, with some bravery and with some integrity.”
McHugh, who pitched in Houston 2014-2019, brings a lot to the Rays in terms of versatility, and that goes beyond what he does on the mound. He plays a handful of instruments (bass clarinet, drums, guitar, saxophone and ukulele), and also hosts The Twelve Six podcast, which he is looking to bring back from a hiatus and eager to have Archer as a guest.
An ex-Pirates’ life
It was an interesting scene (though not for Pirates fans) on Saturday when Shane Baz threw an impressive live batting practice session. Those watching included Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, who he was traded to the Rays with from Pittsburgh, and Archer, who they were traded for and re-signed with Tampa Bay this year.
Joey Wendle is unusual in that he doesn’t like using batting gloves. Never has, probably never will. There are rare times when he’ll pull one on, like during batting practice a couple days ago because he had a blister. But he is aware enough to know people seeing it would think he suddenly changed his stand. “I told our social media team not to post any pictures so people didn’t get the wrong idea,” he said.
Among some spring roommate pairings: Glasnow and Brandon Lowe, former Seminole High teammates Brett Phillips and Joey Krehbiel, “Best Budz” Pete Fairbanks and Josh Fleming, Ryan Yarbrough and Shane McClanahan, Joe Ryan and Baz. …. Randy Arozarena said the close relationship he has with top prospect Wander Franco is based in part on their interest in each other’s cultures. Arozarena is from Cuba, Franco the Dominican Republic (and the same hometown, Bani, as new catcher Francisco Mejia). … Players to be named are still technically due from the Angels (for Aaron Slegers) and Dodgers (for the three-way deal that sent Jose Alvarado to the Phillies) but cash is another option. … Seeing and hearing full-squad workouts on the back fields of the Rays’ spring facility, even from a distance, felt like a treat after doing so much work remotely the past year. … Brent Honeywell, always the team player, said Arozarena has free reign to borrow his cowboy boots, given the power boost he says he gets, and showed in October. … Meadows and Arozarena are 50-1 shots to win the AL MVP award, Lowe 66-1 and Franco 80-1 per BetOnline.ag, with Los Angeles’ Mike Trout the 9-4 favorite. Glasnow is 10-1 to win the AL Cy Young, with Archer 66-1. Chicago’s Lucas Giolito is the 17-4 favorite. … Ex-Ray Scott Kazmir, now 37 and four-plus years from his last game in the majors, got his much-wanted chance, signing a minor-league deal with the Giants. He does so as both of his parents are battling cancer. … Another ex-Ray joining Kazmir, Evan Longoria, manager Gabe Kapler and video analyst Fernando Perez in Giants camp is lefty reliever Jake McGee, who at 34 got a two-year, $5 million deal. ... Cash was joking about the boring selection of songs playing during the workouts, a task usually handled by video coordinator Chris “Chico” Fernandez: “As highly intellectual as we are and our group is, we’re basing our music off Chico’s iPhone. ... I know we can come up with something better than that.”