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Rays expecting Jose Caballero to win shortstop job

Notebook | As far as catcher goes, Erik Neander says the Rays are confident in the group they have but could make an addition.
 
Jose Caballero, who comes to the Rays from the Mariners, follows through during an at-bat against the Rangers last season in Seattle.
Jose Caballero, who comes to the Rays from the Mariners, follows through during an at-bat against the Rangers last season in Seattle. [ LINDSEY WASSON | AP ]
Published Feb. 13|Updated Feb. 14

PORT CHARLOTTE — With Taylor Walls progressing well in his recovery from right hip surgery but unlikely to be ready for opening day, Wander Franco’s status uncertain due to legal reasons and several young players who aren’t quite ready, the Rays felt they needed help at shortstop and traded to get Jose Caballero from the Mariners.

As they opened spring training Tuesday, baseball operations president Erik Neander said the job is there for Caballero, who played mostly second base in Seattle, to win.

“Through a lot of work and evaluation, (we) believe he can do it and do it well,” Neander said. “So as we stand here today … our expectation is that’s a job for him to take. And that would be considered a success for us if it plays out that way.

“Beyond that, we’ll see. As far as backing him up and how the roster comes together, that’s something that we’re going to track through camp and assess a lot of different possibilities for that role.”

Among those who will get some looks are Osleivis Basabe and Curtis Mead as well as top prospects Junior Caminero and Carson Williams, though neither is likely to make the team in backup role.

Walls said he felt good and has been ramping up activity based on tolerance, but couldn’t predict when he would be ready to play, potentially in April.

The Rays also appeared to need help at catcher, with only Rene Pinto on the 40-man roster, but Neander said they were comfortable with him getting the bulk of the playing time and would add a backup either from the group in camp (Rob Brantly or Alex Jackson) or acquire one later in camp.

“If this is where we end up, we’re fine with that,” Neander said. “But if something else develops over the course of spring training, we’re going to keep an open mind.”

Relief on the way

The signing of veteran reliever Phil Maton to a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a 2025 option is expected to become official as soon as Wednesday following completion of his physical.

Maton, 30, is coming off a strong season with Houston, going 4-3, 3.00, with 74 strikeouts and 25 walks in 66 innings over 68 games.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Maton, the Rays will move one of their rehabbing starters — Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen or Jeffrey Springs — to the 60-day injured list. Springs is expected to be the first one back, but not until mid to late July or early August.

Happy to be here

The front entrance of Charlotte Sports Park, the spring training home of the Rays.
The front entrance of Charlotte Sports Park, the spring training home of the Rays. [ TOM O'NEILL | The Daily Sun ]

After splitting last spring between several sites, Rays officials and several players said they were pleased to be back at their Port Charlotte complex, which required extensive repairs due to damage from Hurricane Ian in September 2022.

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“It does feel nice to be in a familiar spot,” reliever Pete Fairbanks said. “I’m going to go to Sweet Scoops (a local ice cream shop) tonight and get myself a little delicious dessert.”

Wander watch

Neander said there was nothing new on the status of Franco, who remains under investigation in his native Dominican Republic over an alleged relationship with a minor.

Franco was reinstated to the roster from administrative leave after the end of the World Series, but is not expected to report to spring training, or rejoin the team, until his case is resolved and Major League Baseball decides if discipline is warranted.

“Same as it’s been for some time now,” Neander said. “Focused on the players we have here and that are healthy as we look to shape our club for April and beyond.”

Miscellany

Rays infielder Curtis Mead sported a shaved head on Tuesday he said will be his new look.
Rays infielder Curtis Mead sported a shaved head on Tuesday he said will be his new look. [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]

Reliever Jason Adam lost his arbitration case against the Rays; he will make the $2.7 million offered by the team rather than the $3.25 million he filed for. A year ago, Adam won his hearing, and was paid $1.775 million rather than the $1.55 million offered by the team. … The team said 35 pitchers and seven catchers reported Tuesday; the first workout is around 10 a.m. Wednesday at Charlotte Sports Park with admission and parking free.. … Mead, the 23-year-old infielder, is sporting a newly shaved head that he says will be his permanent new look: “I was battling my hair loss from a young age, so I decided it was time.” … The team is running a flash sale through 10 a.m. Wednesday with half off lower-level seating to regular-season games, with some exclusions. ... Cash said he was eager to see team MVP Yandy Diaz who “was motivated to work on his agility” so he could improve defensively.

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