ST. PETERSBURG — The future was put on temporary hold for the Rays on Monday afternoon.
Seven of the organization’s top prospects were sent back to minor-league camp, although several left lasting impressions through the first few weeks of spring training.
Infielders Curtis Mead, Osleivis Basabe and Greg Jones and pitchers Taj Bradley, Mason Montgomery, Colby White and Elvin Rodriguez were either optioned or reassigned to minor league camp. Mead and Bradley are the franchise’s Nos. 2 and 3 prospects according to Baseball America (Shane Baz is No. 1) and Montgomery, Basabe, Jones and White are all in the top 20.
Basabe, who was acquired from Texas in the Nate Lowe trade, went 9-for-18 this spring with two walks and a home run. Basabe, 22, hit .324 between Class A and Double-A last season. Bradley threw 3.1 shutout innings with three hits, one walk and one strikeout. Bradley, who will turn 22 next week, was promoted to Triple-A Durham midway through 2022 and went 4-3 with a 3.66 ERA. Mead, who is listed by MLB.com as the No. 33 prospect in the game, hit two homers in his 22 spring at-bats.
Top prospects on the 40-man roster are often among the first spring cuts because if they get injured while in big-league camp, they have to be placed on the MLB injured list, which would accelerate their service time.
Those darn hitters
One downside to Tampa Bay’s offensive success in a 9-5 win against the Tigers on Monday? Starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen was supposed to pitch the fourth inning, but sat around too long while the Rays were scoring six runs and Detroit was changing pitchers in the third inning. So pitching coach Kyle Snyder had Rasmussen go down to the bullpen and get in some more throwing instead of waiting for the fourth inning to start.
“I’m not going to complain about offense, even though I think I was in the dugout complaining about how long it was taking,” Rasmussen joked. “So (Snyder) just thought with how long that was happening, I was better off to just go start things in the pen early.”
Negative X-rays and positive at-bats
Good luck has eluded Yandy Diaz through the first half of the spring, but the Rays infielder doesn’t seem too worried. Diaz missed time early with a hip flexor strain, then missed a few more days when he got hit in the left hand with a pitch. He returned to the lineup Monday against the Tigers and drew two walks with a single in his three plate appearances.
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“If there is one guy who is going to miss time in spring training, we still have a lot of confidence he’s going to hit,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. Diaz prepared for his return by taking live batting practice against Shane McClanahan. (Who struck him out twice.) “In a week, if I get a decent amount of at-bats, I think I can be pretty good,” Diaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro.
Brandon Lowe drove in four runs with a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly, and Luke Raley had a two-run single as the Rays turned eight hits and seven walks into nine runs. The Rays have now hit 27 homers and have given up seven homers through 16 spring games.
Is it October already?
Showing the same flair for the dramatic as he has in previous postseasons with the Rays — as well as his pregame cowboy boots — Randy Arozarena is off to a hot start with Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. The Rays leftfielder went 5-for-9 with three doubles, one homer, a walk and a 1.222 slugging percentage in his first two games, including a victory against the USA on Sunday.
“Does he like the bright lights, or what? So happy for him,” Cash said. “I texted with him. He was not happy after the Colombia loss, and you could tell. He came out and put it to some guys (Sunday).”
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