Rays think that continuity will breed success

Notebook | Only two of the 26 active and four injured list players are new to the organization.
With the logo painted Wednesday afternoon, Tropicana Field is ready for Thursday's opener.
With the logo painted Wednesday afternoon, Tropicana Field is ready for Thursday's opener. [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]
Published March 30|Updated March 30

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays staff and players have the normal “nerves and anxieties” going into Thursday’s season opener against Detroit, which manager Kevin Cash said was a good thing, knowing they’ll settle down shortly after Shane McClanahan’s first pitch at 3:10 p.m.

What they also have is an unusual — especially for the Rays — sense of familiarity, as only two of the 26 players on their opening day roster, plus the four on the injured list, are new to the organization.

Aside from starter Zach Eflin (a free agent from Philadelphia signed to a three-year, $40 million deal) and reliever Kevin Kelly (a 25-year-old Rule 5 pick from Cleveland who is making his big-league debut), the rest have mostly been there and done that together.

Cash made that the theme of his roughly three-minute speech to the team prior to Wednesday’s final workout.

“(It was) basically appreciating how hard they’ve worked this spring to continue to come together,” he said. “Letting them know that by having only two new guys in here from the team from last year means something. It means the belief that we as a staff and front office have in the group.”

Though the Rays did part ways with several veterans, most notably first baseman Ji-Man Choi (Pittsburgh), outfielder Kevin Kiermaier (Toronto) and catcher Mike Zunino (Cleveland), they consider the residual continuity from the end of last season a good thing.

“Hopefully that works in our favor,” Cash said. “The guys know each other very well. Really commend them on how they came in this spring. And they continue to keep that culture that they take so much pride in.”

Besides Kelly, reliever Calvin Faucher, infielder Isaac Paredes and outfielder Luke Raley are experiencing their first opening day in the majors. So are coaches Tomas Francisco, Jorge Moncada and Brady Williams.

Wander Franco good to go

Rays infielder Wander Franco fields ground balls during practice Wednesday.
Rays infielder Wander Franco fields ground balls during practice Wednesday. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Shortstop Wander Franco said he was over the right quad tightness that sidelined him Saturday and led to a Sunday MRI and was “ready to go” for Thursday’s opener. Cash said workouts and treatment have gone well. … The Rays will use almost an all-right-handed lineup vs. Tigers lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, with Brandon Lowe the lone lefty and likely hitting seventh. … With the 26-man opening day roster set to be announced by the noon Thursday deadline, the Rays made a few final moves. Pitchers Shawn Armstrong (neck), Shane Baz (elbow surgery) and Tyler Glasnow (oblique strain) were placed on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to March 27; infielder/catcher Gavin Collins and infielder Daniel Robertson were released from minor-league contracts; outfielder Grant Witherspoon was traded to Detroit for cash; infielder Tristan Gray, outfielder Ben Gamel, catcher Roberto Alvarez and pitchers Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree and Ben Heller were reassigned to the minors.

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The Rays are 13-12 in season openers, 9-9 at home. ... Cash said the Rays had enough exposure to and experience with the pitch clock and other rule changes (shift, pickoff restrictions) during spring training that “the hiccups should be behind us,” but he still expects some violations. … Among the Trop are food stands are Little Greek, Omaha Steaks (burgers, brats) and Daddies Donuts, plus a checkout-free concessions area (the Short Stop at the Budweiser Porch) and expanded/enhanced video boards. … The Rays will wear Devil Rays throwback uniforms for Thursday’s opener, the same matchup as the March 31, 1998, inaugural game. ... Pregame TV coverage starts at 2 p.m. on Bally Sports Sun, which announced plans to show 156 games, with the six others slated for exclusive national coverage. …The WEDU documentary tracing the acquisition of the franchise, Rise of the Rays, premiers at 9 p.m.

Projected lineups

For Thursday’s season opener:


Yandy Diaz, 1B

Wander Franco, SS

Isaac Paredes, 3B

Randy Arozarena, LF

Harold Ramirez, DH

Manuel Margot, RF

Brandon Lowe, 2B

Christian Bethancourt, C

Jose Siri, CF

Shane McClanahan, P


Matt Vierling, LF

Riley Greene, CF

Javier Baez, SS

Austin Meadows, RF

Spencer Torkelson, 1B

Miguel Cabrera, DH

Eric Haase, C

Jonathan Schoop, 2B

Ryan Kreidler, 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez, P

• • •

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