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Port Charlotte report: Rays all together now

Evan Longoria got in some early work despite the fog.

WILL VRAGOVIC / TAMPA BAY TIMES

Evan Longoria got in some early work despite the fog.

After a foggy start to the morning in Port Charlotte, the Rays are set for their first full-squad workout of the spring, taking the field at around 10:30.

Before heading out, there is a meeting in the clubhouse where manager Kevin Cash and front-office officials will address the 65 players in camp.

The highlight - or, if you are a hitter, lowlight - of the day will live batting practice, starting around 12:10, with flamethrowing Jose Alvarado and Ryne Stanek among the pitchers scheduled for work.

Check back later for updates.

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HBO show on Joe Maddon to premiere Tuesday

Former Rays and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be the featured subject with HBO's Real Sports show debuts on Tuesday night at 10.

Host Bryant Gumbel spent several days, in Tampa with Maddon, who led the Cubs to their first World Series championship since 1908.

From HBO: It’s good to be Joe Maddon. The three-time manager of the year snapped the Chicago Cubs’ 108-year World Series drought after just two seasons at the helm of a franchise long “cursed” to never win again. But the 63-year-old skipper tells REAL SPORTS host Bryant Gumbel he doesn’t believe in curses of yesteryear when they sit down prior to spring training and the pursuit of another title for the iconic franchise. Gumbel and Maddon look back to the riveting 2016 fall classic and discuss the widespread criticism of his use of closer Aroldis Chapman during the series. Gumbel also speaks with Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, who reveals how he lured Maddon to the National League.

Here is a clip:

 

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Longoria still missing Forsythe but likes totality of moves

The new-look Longoria.

MARC TOPKIN / TAMPA BAY TIMES

The new-look Longoria.

Veteran Rays leader 3B Evan Longoria did a spring opening address this morning, showing off his new bearded look. Among the highlights:

* While still not over the trade of 2B Logan Forsythe - saying at the time he was "surprised and upset" - Longoria said he likes the overall winter moves. "I think we were all a little bit upset by the loss of Logan, I was about as vocal as I've ever been on any given topic or move that we've made, but that being said some of the additions we did make are really good.''

* Coming off a 36-homer season that was one of his best, Longoria changed his off-season routine, cutting way back on his hitting, switching from yoga to pilates (with wife Jaime Edmonson) and going back to the Exos workout facility in Arizona. "I took the Jake Arrieta advice and did a bunch of pilates with my wife and did less hitting, a lot less hitting.''

* The reduced workload was the product of changes he made in his swing last season that obviously stuck with him. "My swing has probably felt as good as It's ever felt coming into spring.'' …

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Port Charlotte report: Rays smile for the camera

Will Vragovic and the Times photo crew are hard at work on photo day, with LHP Dana Eveland a willing subject.

MARC TOPKIN / TAMPA BAY TIMES

Will Vragovic and the Times photo crew are hard at work on photo day, with LHP Dana Eveland a willing subject.

It's photo day in Rays camp, which means the players are parading through about a dozen stations for photo and video shoots, and some 620-AM sound bites.

Once they get that done, the pitchers and catchers will have somewhat of an abbreviated workout starting around 10:30, while the position players are going through physicals and other administrative duties, such as signing items for team charities, etc.

On Sunday, the whole group will workout together for the first time, and will have five days of doing so before beginning exhibition game play on Friday, Feb. 24.

As for today's workout, RHP Erasmo Ramirez is slated to through his first bullpen session after being set back a couple days when he tweaked his left hamstring on Tuesday.

 

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Checking in with new Rays TV reporter Alex Corddry

New Fox Sports Rays TV reporter Alex Corddry

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

New Fox Sports Rays TV reporter Alex Corddry

Alex Corddry has been hired by Fox Sports Sun to be the new in-game reporter for Rays TV broadcast. A native of Maryland and graduate of the University of Alabama, Corddry, 28, has worked in Birmingham (for the CBS affiliate), Washington, D.C. (on the Redskins website), in Boston (for the NBC affiliate) and most recently doing college football for ESPN.

The Times asked, and she answered three questions about her new assignment, for which she will make her debut March 12:

1. What are your thoughts on getting the job?

I'm extremely excited to join the Fox Sports Sun team and can't wait to work with Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson this season. I look forward to bringing my passion and enthusiasm to the game of baseball each and every broadcast. I'm very grateful to Mr. Sternberg and to the Tampa Bay Rays for this amazing opportunity!

2. How eager are you for a fulltime baseball gig?  …

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Cash makes clear Rays first option at second is Miller

Brad Miller played 37 games at second with the Mariners from 2013-15.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Brad Miller played 37 games at second with the Mariners from 2013-15.

It was no surprise, but Rays manager Kevin Cash made clear today that their primary plan is have Brad Miller make the move to second base as the replacement for Logan Forsythe.

"We're going to get him as many reps as we can at second base, as simple as that,'' Cash said Friday. "He is up for the challenge. ... Brad Miller is bought in and is all about the team. He'll do whatever. But we think for our team this spring we need to get him as acclimated as possible at second base. He is still going to play short because we know that versatility will help us. But he is all about playing second base and being a really good one.''

Cash talked with Miller after he reported to camp on Thursday.

Miller played 37 games at second with the Mariners from 2013-15, so Cash said it may be more a matter of getting him "re-acclimated.''

Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin and prospect Daniel Robertson are other internal options at second.

Because the Rays signed back lefty swinger Logan Morrison to play first, Cash said Miller is not likely to get much time there.

 

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Port Charlotte report: Hunter, rest of Rays are here

Rays shortstop Willy Adames signs an autograph for Brody Rossetti, 7, after a workout Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Rays shortstop Willy Adames signs an autograph for Brody Rossetti, 7, after a workout Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park.

UPDATE, 10:19: Hunter is here in the clubhouse, with just some details to be finalized for his minor-league deal to be complete.

Also, Longoria (in a full beard) and Weeks reported, so the Rays now have all 65 players in camp.

DEVELOPING: Rays pitchers and catchers take the field today for their fourth day of workouts in Port Charlotte, and are joined by just about all the position players, with 3B Evan Longoria and OF/1B/DH Rickie Weeks the last of the 64 yet to report.

Also:

* A minor-league deal with RHP Tommy Hunter is expected to be finalized today. The veteran reliever would join the competition for an open bullpen spot.

* Position players report today, then have an admin day on Saturday for physicals and photos, in advance of Sunday's first full-squad workout.

 

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Commissioner still "optimistic" on Rays stadium search

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday that he remains "optimistic" that the Rays will find a new stadium in the Tampa Bay market.

Manfred, speaking in Lakeland before the Governor's Baseball Dinner, said he shared Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg's feeling based on progress on the site search in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, with a resolution expected by August.

"I'd like to encourage the process to move as quickly as possible," Manfred said.

 

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Rich Hollenberg won't be back on Rays TV broadcasts

RIch Hollenberg has worked on Rays broadcasts for 3 seasons.

TIMES FILES

RIch Hollenberg has worked on Rays broadcasts for 3 seasons.

Todd Kalas won't be the only face missing from the Fox Sports Rays TV broadcasts this season, as Rich Hollenberg — surprisingly — was not retained, the Times has learned.

Hollenberg has handled pre- and post-game host, and occasional in-game reporting, duties for the last three seasons.

A replacement is expected to be named soon.

"While this move was not my decision, I understand it's a business,'' Hollenberg said. "I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the Rays, and will especially miss interacting with the fans. It never felt like work to me, especially because I had such a blast with (co-host) Orestes (Destrade), who I consider like a brother.''

Hollenberg plans to expand his college basketball duties with ESPN.

With Kalas leaving for the Astros play-by-play job, Fox is set to hire Alex Corddry as the new in-game reporter.

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Rays close to signing Tommy Hunter, have interest in Brian Wilson

As a reliever, Tommy Hunter is 19-12, 3.27 with 16 saves.

Getty Images

As a reliever, Tommy Hunter is 19-12, 3.27 with 16 saves.

The Rays are set to add another experienced reliever to their spring roster as they are close to signing RHP Tommy Hunter to a minor-league deal, the Times has learned.

Hunter, 30, split last season between the Indians and Orioles, going 2-2, 3.18 in 33 games. He has spent parts of nine seasons in the majors, coming up with Texas and then moving to Baltimore, and switched from starting to relieving in 2013.

As a reliever, Hunter is 19-12, 3.27 with 16 saves.

Wilson, 34, is trying to make a comeback as a knuckleballer, having last pitched in the majors in 2014. The Rays have developed a program to work with and refine knuckleball pitchers, so their interest in Wilson - which would be on a minor-league deal and not a camp invite - would make sense.

Wilson was known as much for his solid relief work as his eccentric personality during his time with the Giants and Dodgers.

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Port Charlotte report: Pitchers will take it slow to start

Alex Cobb, pictured, and Jake Odorizzi threw on Tuesday and would typically be in line to do so again today, but will not.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Alex Cobb, pictured, and Jake Odorizzi threw on Tuesday and would typically be in line to do so again today, but will not.

The Rays have their third workout of the spring this morning in Port Charlotte, and a chance in the schedule will be noticeable.

Given that camps opened earlier (due to the World Baseball Classic) and last a bit longer this year, the Rays will have some of their pitchers - starters and veteran relievers - on a less intense throwing schedule, where they take an extra day or two between bullpen sessions rather than stick to an every-other-day schedule.

For example, RHPs Alex Cobb and Jake Odorizzi threw on Tuesday and would typically be in line to do so again today, but will not. Younger pitchers such as RHP Ryan Garton and minor-leaguers such as Jake Faria will be on the standard schedule.

Even though today's 10:30 a.m. workout is for pitchers and catchers, 20 of the 23 position players have already reported and most will be around as well. 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Logan Morrison and DH/1B/OF Rickie Weeks are all expected by Saturday's reporting date.

 

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Rays' Kiermaier went old-school in wedding proposal

Kevin Kiermaier announced via Twitter that he is now engaged to his, girlfriend Marisa.

Twitter

Kevin Kiermaier announced via Twitter that he is now engaged to his, girlfriend Marisa.

For the biggest catch of his life, Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier went old-school.

Wanting to propose before spring training, Kiermaier arranged for a family gathering last weekend at girlfriend Marisa's mother's house then - after stalling for a few minutes watching the Oklahoma City-Golden State NBA game - snuck outside to wait for her and got down to business.

"Her mom made their backyard look beautiful, with all these lights and made all these signs,'' Kiermaier said Wednesday after reporting to camp. "I just dropped down on a knee ... and asked her. Her whole family was inside watching. She absolutely loved it. Very fun, eventful weekend and that just capped off my offseason as a whole. ... It was perfect.''

As a keepsake, Kiermaier arranged for Marisa's younger sister to video the event. "(Marisa) was so surprised,'' he said. "And there's a three-minute video that Marisa will never forget now.''

Kiermaier said there is no wedding date yet; his brother Dan, a groundskeeper at Wrigley Field, also got engaged recently.

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Ramos targeting May return as DH for Rays but won't rush it

Wilson Ramos reported to Rays camp Wednesday.

AP photo

Wilson Ramos reported to Rays camp Wednesday.

Free-agent signee C Wilson Ramos reported to Rays camp Wednesday saying he is still seeking to return from right knee rehab to action as a DH sometime in May, but won't rush either.

"That's kind of the goal for right now, I've been working really hard towards that,'' Ramos said, via new team interpreter Wendi Tripp.

"But I don't have any particular kind of pressure that I have to be back right then. I really want to follow the therapy and the guide to getting back to healthy to the letter so that that way I'm 100 percent when I come back. I don't want to push myself too far ahead and then fall back behind again in the game. I want to come back healthy and that is the goal.''


Ramos, 29, was having a stellar season with the Washington until being injured Sept. 26, hitting .307 with 22 home runs, 80 RBIs and .850 OPS, and was going to be the top catcher on the free-agent market. Instead he had surgery in October to repair his ACL and two meniscus tears and signed a two-year deal with the Rays that guaranteed him $12.5-million with another $5.75-million available in incentives.

 

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Seven Rays spring games will be on TV

Chris Archer fields a comebacker during the first official workout for pitchers and catchers Tuesday at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Chris Archer fields a comebacker during the first official workout for pitchers and catchers Tuesday at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.

Seven of the Rays 34 spring games will be televised.

Fox Sports Sun announced today it will cover three games, March 12 (Blue Jays), 19 (Phillies) and 25 (Red Sox) and provide the opposing team feed on three others, March 7 (Yankees) and March 13 and 28 (Twins).

Additionally, ESPN will air the March 23 game vs. the Yankees.

Per Fox Sports Sun, Dewayne Staats will handle the March 12 and 19 games, with Staats and Brian Anderson working the March 25 game. Alex Corddry, whom the Times reported will replace Todd Kalas as the in-game reporter, is expected to debut on the March 12 telecast.

Additionaly, 13 weekend games will be carred on radio on 620-AM and 11 on raysbaseball.com.

 

 

 

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Port Charlotte report: Ramirez, De Leon skip bullpen sessions

UPDATE, 1:17: Two Rays pitchers skipped scheduled bullpen sessions today, veteran RHP Erasmo Ramirez after tweaking his left hamstring covering 1B during Tuesday PFP drills and prospect RHP Jose De Leon due to mid-bad tightness. Cash said both could be on the mound as soon as Thursday.

Also of note:

* C Wilson Ramos reported, saying he is still aiming to return from knee rehab to DH sometime in May, but also won't feel rushed to do so and wants to be sure he is 100 percent, with a return behind the plate later in the season. He said, through new team interpreter Wendi Tripp, his s two-day delay was just logistical issues with his wife and daughter in south Florida.

* CF Kevin Kiermaier, INF/OF Nick Franklin and INF Brad Miller were among position players showing up today, leaving only three of the 64 to report ahead of Saturday's first full-squad workout: 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Logan Morrison, OF/1B Rickie Weeks.

 

UPDATE, 11:58: Kiermaier reported to camp and worked out, saying he was ready to get started after an exciting off-season capped by his engagement. INF/OF Nick Franklin also showed up and worked out today. …

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