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Rays in hunt for big bats Matt Chapman, Seiya Suzuki

Rays notes | No big-league pitchers in early exhibitions, Tyler Zombro throws again, Kevin Kiermaier limited by stiff neck.
If Oakland's Matt Chapman becomes available, consider the Rays interested.
If Oakland's Matt Chapman becomes available, consider the Rays interested. [ TED S. WARREN | Associated Press (2021) ]
Published Mar. 14|Updated Mar. 14

PORT CHARLOTTE — As Rays executives seek to add a right-handed hitter to improve what they consider a really good team, they are shopping among some top-shelf options, with interest in A’s third baseman Matt Chapman and free-agent outfielder Seiya Suzuki.

Chapman, 28, is a power hitter with a smooth glove who is expected to soon be traded in Oakland’s sell-off. A number of teams will be interested; the Rays have a bevy of talented young players and prospects they could offer. Chapman is projected to make $9.5 million this season in his second year of arbitration eligibility and will be a free agent in 2024.

Suzuki, 27, is narrowing his options to sign as a free agent after playing parts of nine seasons for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, where he was a three-time All-Star. In 2021, Suzuki hit .317 with a career-high 38 home runs, 88 RBIs and a 1.069 OPS. He would seem tougher to get as the Rays don’t typically win bidding wars. The Padres are very interested, and the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners and Red Sox are among others in the mix.

Though their interest would be limited to a short-term deal, the Rays continue to be linked to star lefty-hitting first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose departure from the Braves was made all but official with their acquisition of Matt Olson.

Tyler Zombro takes next step

Triple-A pitcher Tyler Zombro looked good in throwing a 1-2-3, 13-pitch inning in his first game action (albeit intrasquad) since the horrific June incident when he was struck in the head by a line drive and required extensive surgery. Zombro said it felt “natural” to be on the mound and good to be in a competitive environment. Even better, it feels “normal” to be in the camp routine: “We’ve been chasing that normalcy.”

Now pitching, um ….

The always cautious Rays will keep their major-league pitchers on a normal early spring buildup progression throwing bullpen sessions and live batting practice, meaning they won’t be used in any of the first three exhibitions, which start Friday. Manager Kevin Cash said pitchers from minor-league camp will work the games.

Miscellany

Rays centerfielder Vidal Bruján, left, and manager Kevin Cash share a light-hearted moment Monday.
Rays centerfielder Vidal Bruján, left, and manager Kevin Cash share a light-hearted moment Monday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
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The Rays went through their first full workout, but centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier was a limited participant, skipping fielding drills and batting practice due to a stiff neck. Cash said Kiermaier was “totally fine” and should be more active Tuesday. … All players reported to camp, but lefty Brendan McKay, who is rehabbing from another surgery, did not pass COVID-19 intake screening and will be delayed at least a few days. … Cash was among those wondering why infielder Vidal Brujan dyed his hair gray: “He’s trying to look like me, I guess. … The Dominican Kevin Cash.”

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