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Rays Steven Souza Jr. lends a hand to Big Brothers/Big Sisters

Steven Souza Jr, took to the lanes.

SKIP MILOS / TAMPA BAY RAYS

Steven Souza Jr, took to the lanes.

Rays OF Steven Souza Jr, hosted the Bowl for Kids' Sake event tonight in Tampa that raised $41,000 for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Tampa Bay organization.

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For starters: Rays vs. Pirates in Port Charlotte finale

No. 3 starter Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

No. 3 starter Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 10:06: Here is what Longoria said:

"Just trying to rest up. I feel fine. Tthe plan is just to probably play tomorrow in Lakeland. Just get ready for Sunday. Looking forward to the season. That's always been the plan to feel as good as I can. I felt like (Sunday), I felt my at-bats were a little under where I normally am (total wise), but I felt good in the box and I felt pretty confident the last week, so, again, trying to prepare for 162 games.''

UPDATE, 9:40: Here is the Rays lineup without Longoria, who last played on Sunday:

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Rays tell James Loney he won't be on team

James Loney said he was told that he will either be released or traded.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

James Loney said he was told that he will either be released or traded.

The Rays have told 1B James Loney he will not be on the team.

Loney said he was told that he will either be released or traded. He plans to leave Port Charlotte today to await his fate upon mutual decision with the team.

"It had to be somebody (to go), right?'' Loney said. "It is what it is.''

If released, the Rays will be responsible for his $8-million salary.

"There's not a trade right now,'' Loney said.

Loney lost his job as the Rays acquired Logan Morrison, Steve Pearce and Corey Dickerson during the off-season, With Dickerson as the primary DH, the Rays will use Morrison and Pearce at first.

"I think it's going to work out the best for me,'' Loney said. "The team is great, I wish them the best. The guys are great. Loved my time here, loved the organization. At the end of the day you want to play in the big leagues.''

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Rays have released catcher Rene Rivera

With Rene Rivera, pictured, released, it appears Hank Conger will be the backup to Curt Casali.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

With Rene Rivera, pictured, released, it appears Hank Conger will be the backup to Curt Casali.

UPDATE, 4:04: The team has since announced the move, with manager Kevin Cash saying Curt Casali and Hank Conger will split time behind the plate.

DEVELOPING: The Rays have released C Rene Rivera, the Times has learned.

Rivera confirmed the move. "I was surprised,'' he told the Times. "I was having a good spring.''

By releasing Rivera today, the Rays save three-fourths of his $1.7-million salary as they have to pay only 45 days terminaton pay.

With Rivera released, it appears Hank Conger will be the backup to Curt Casali.

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Rays first pitch honors go to ... Norm from Cheers?

George Wendt, right, who portrays Norm Peterson sheds a tear on the set of the popular NBC series, "Cheers," as John Ratzenberger, portraying Cliff Calvin, looks away during a scene while taping the final episode on April 1, 1993.

Associated Press

George Wendt, right, who portrays Norm Peterson sheds a tear on the set of the popular NBC series, "Cheers," as John Ratzenberger, portraying Cliff Calvin, looks away during a scene while taping the final episode on April 1, 1993.

The Rays are handing the ceremonial first pitch honors at Sunday's season opener to .... actor George Wendt, who played Norm on the sitcom Cheers.

Typically, first pitch honors go to a politician (governor, mayor), famous Rays personnel (Wade Boggs, Don Zimmer, Vince Naimoli), military personnel (from MacDill), or a big name in the sports world (Michael Andretti).

Also, the Rays announced that Tampa Bay area saxophonist B.K. Jackson will perform both anthems before the 4:05 game with Toronto.

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For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox with no Longoria again

No. 2 starter Drew Smyly will be on the mound for the Rays.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

No. 2 starter Drew Smyly will be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 9:50: Rays manager Kevin Cash said 3B Evan Longoria is "fine" and "more or less resting" and will play one of the next two days as he prepares for Sunday's season opener against Toronto. Cash said Longoria did all his regular work in the cage and in the field -- he hasn't played since Sunday.

-- Cash said the team will likely wait until Saturday for its final roster decisions, saying it will be "down to the wire," not only in who wins which battles but even the roster composition, pondering whether to keep a bench of four or five players as opposed to a larger bullpen.

-- Cash reiterated that Brad Miller will be the Rays' shortstop this season, dismissing any notion of a platoon or shared role with Tim Beckham, who is expected to help off the bench.

UPDATE, 8:21: The Rays announced that saxophonist BK Jackson will perform both anthems at Sunday's opener vs. the Blue Jays. …

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Rays to open with 4-man rotation, Erasmo in bullpen

Manager Kevin Cash said Erasmo Ramirez will be used to get "big outs" given the void created by the injury absence of closer Brad Boxberger.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Manager Kevin Cash said Erasmo Ramirez will be used to get "big outs" given the void created by the injury absence of closer Brad Boxberger.

The Rays will open the season with a four-man rotation and shift Erasmo Ramirez to the bullpen.

With abundant April off-days, the Rays can rely heavily on their top four starters of Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore.

They conceivably will need a fifth starter only twice in the first five weeks of the season, April 13 and 23.

Manager Kevin Cash said Ramirez will go to the bullpen for that time, and will be used to get "big outs" given the void created by the injury absence of closer Brad Boxberger.

Most likely, the Rays will call up a starter when needed during that time.

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Commissioner Rob Manfred to attend Rays opener

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will attend Sunday's season opener against the Blue Jays.

This will be the first time in the Rays' 19 seasons they have had the commissioner at their opening game.

Manfred also was with the Rays last week in Cuba, and spoke highly there of how well the whole organization handled the trip and represented Major League Baseball. After taking office last year, he appointed Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg to the Executive Council.

"For me, opening day is the most special day of the year,'' Sternberg said. "Having the commissioner attend our opener this year heightens the day even more. It is great to have him in Tampa Bay.''

 

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For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, but Archer in Port Charlotte

Opening day starter Chris Archer will be pitching, and 7-8 others playing, in a Triple-A game against the Twins in Fort Myers.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Opening day starter Chris Archer will be pitching, and 7-8 others playing, in a Triple-A game against the Twins in Fort Myers.

UPDATE, 9:48: Under the new plan, Archer will throw against Rays hitters to try to get to 50 pitches. Brad Miller is wearing his usual game uniform of striped socks and high pants in a nod to Archer.

UPDATE, 9:42: Another change for Rays is that Longoria is not playing in Dunedin; he is here in Port Charlotte. So here is the new Rays lineup v. Jays:

Forsythe 2b;
Kiermaier cf,
Jennings lf,
Dickerson RF,
Pearce 1b,
Loney DH,
Beckham SS,
Casali c,
Shaffer 3b
Andriese p

instead

UPDATE, 8:53: The Rays made a late change in plans, apparently due to a forecast for heavy afternoon showers, so Archer will now stay in Port Charlotte and throw to hitters at 11 a.m. Cash will stay here as well.

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back in action today, with a scheduled game in Dunedin against the Blue Jays that features 3B Evan Longoria, CF Kevin Kiermaier and a host of other regulars.

But they also have opening day starter Chris Archer pitching, and 7-8 others playing, in a Triple-A game against the Twins in Fort Myers.

For Archer, it is strategic, as he otherwise would be pitching against the same Blue Jays team he will face for real Sunday. …

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Rays announce opening day sellout

The Rays announced that Sunday's season opener is sold out.

That makes it the 11th straight home opener the Rays have sold out, which they say is "the longest home opener sellout streak among Tampa Bay teams." They say it is the fourth earliest date they have sold out, behind 1998 (December 6), 2009 (February 26) and 2012 (February 29).

The Rays take on the Blue Jays at 4:05 p.m., with ESPN2 televising nationally in addition to Fox Sports Sun.

Tickets remain available for the other three games of the opening week series.

 

 

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Rays up security after Saturday incident with fan upset by Cuba trip

This is the man with police on Saturday in Bradenton.

10News WTSP

This is the man with police on Saturday in Bradenton.

Security around the team will be increased after a scary incident during Saturday night's game in Bradenton against the Pirates, when a man upset the Rays had visited Cuba ran onto the field, screamed obscenities and threw a can of beer into their dugout.

"I think we'll do a good job of carrying and having plenty of security and see how it kind of plays out," manager Kevin Cash said.

The man — identified by 10News WTSP as Heliodoro Gutierrez, 67, of Bradenton and of Cuban descent — was arrested and charged with trespassing, causing affray and assault, Bradenton police said.

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Rays option Taylor Motter to minors, reassign 4 others

The Rays optioned versatile infielder/outfielder Taylor Motter back to Triple-A on Sunday, which means Tim Beckham wins the job as the backup middle infielder.

Manager Kevin Cash said Motter "did everything he could" to make the team, and the Rays would have total confidence in calling him up if they had a need. He said Motter will continie to play all over the field at Durham, including at shortstop.

Beckham was the likely choice to keep the job as the backup middle infielder, and is likely to strat against at least some left-handers.

Also reassigned to minor-league camp were C Mayo Acosta (who will stay with the big-league team the next week anyway), OF Jaff Decker, RHP Jhan Marinez, RHP Tyler Sturdevant.

Cash said all four showed well, and he would expect Marinez and Sturdevant to get a chance to help out during the season.

 

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For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays, with an opening day lineup?

UPDATE, 10:47: Cash wouldn't quite commit but ackowledged today's lineup is "similar" to what they will use next Sunday, and did confirm Forsythe will be the leadoff hitter against right- and left-handed starters. ... Cash said Chris Archer will pitch in a Triple-A game on Tuesday in Fort Myers rather than face #BlueJays, his opening day opponent. .. Cash said with th need for only 4 starters the first 2 weeks, they're considering keeping three catcherss, which doesn't bode well for displaced 1B James Loney staying around. .. Cash said the Rays will have additional security after the Saturday night incident where a fan upset they had gone to Cuba ran onto the field and threw a beer can/aluminum bottle into their dugout.

UPDATE, 9:27: The Rays are starting what looks to be their opening day lineup, save for the pitcher:

Forsythe 2b,
Morrison 1b,
Longoria 3b,
Dickerson DH,
Jennings lf,
Miller SS,
Souza RF,
Kiermaier cf,
Casali c,
Carpenter p

In addition to Carpenter, other relievers scheduled for work today include Webb, Colome, Cedeno, Farquhar, Bellatti.

And for the Jays: …

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Man upset with Cuba trip runs onto field, throws beer into Rays dugout

The Rays came face to face with political fallout from their trip to Cuba during Saturday's game at Bradenton's McKechnie Field when an fan ran onto the field and threw two beverage containers into their dugout.

The fan, who was of Cuban descent, was arrested and charged with trespassing, causing affray and assault (for throwing a can of beer), according to Bradenton police Lt. John Affolter. They did not release his name. Rays players said he threw two items, a beer and a soda.

"It was a Cuba thing,'' Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi said. "I don't speak Spanish too well. ... I think it was a Cuban person, frustrated about the politics of it, I guess. He threw two beer cans. Nobody got hit. Nobody did anything. Maybe some guys got wet. It was a Cuba thing.''

The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, hopped a low wall at the far end of the dugout during the seventh inning, ran in front of the dugout, yelled in Spanish and threw the containers.

"I think he just missed a couple of the guys,'' INF/OF Taylor Motter said. "I know it hit the back
wall and exploded. .. We just tried to duck and weave as best we could.''

Rays 3B coach Charlie Montoyo grabbed the man and put him in a bear hug until police came from the other side of the field.

"I just saw him throwing stuff to the dugout and then I realized his age so I was just holding him and I was telling him, I realized he speaks Spanish, telling him to relax,'' Montoyo said. "I didn't hear what he was yelling, I just saw the two things and then I was holding him. He smelled like beer or rum or something. ... To me it was an old person drunk so I felt bad for him.''

Other officers said the same man was seen hollering at the Rays bus when it arrived.

Motter said the dugout incident was unsettling.

"It just scares me,'' he said. "If it was or wasn't related to Cuba or it was or wasn't related to MLB, I still feel like security should have been there a little more knowing that we're on the map a little bit. But they did a good job coming to get him as quickly as possible.''

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For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Odorizzi starting

UPDATE, 3:09: After a slow unfolding afternoon, the Rays are set to face the Pirates with this lineup, which includes minor-leaguers Granden Goetzman (of nearby Palmetto) and Christian Toribio:

Souza rf
Kiermaier cf
Jennings dh
Pearce 2b
Morrison 1b
Conger c
Motter ss
Goetzman lf
Toribio 3b
Odorizzi p

And here is the Pirates lineup:
Jaso 1b
McCutchen cf
Freese 3b
Marte lf
Cervelli c
Harrison 2b
Mercer ss
Escobar rf
Liriano p

 

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back on the road for a 6:05 game tonight in Bradenton against the Pirates.

RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays against Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano.

OFs Kevin Kiermaier, Desmond Jennings and Steven Souza Jr. are among the biggest names on the Rays travel roster.

 

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