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3 takeaways from Rays spring training

3 takeaways from spring training

1. Chris Archer looks as good as he ever has entering a season. Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb look like they are ready to pitch in real games. Blake Snell and Matt Andriese did not have good springs, so the back end of the rotation is, at this point, iffy at best.

The backbone of this team will always be the starting pitching, and Archer, Odorizzi and Cobb have a chance to give the Rays quality starts in three consecutive games. The worry is that Snell and Andriese could lead to heavy bullpen nights. We saw what happened last season when the bullpen was overworked.

The Rays have to avoid that this year, especially during the challenging first month of the season that includes the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Tigers, Astros and Orioles.

This bullpen is searching for a setup man until Brad Boxberger (lat strain) returns from the DL and will include rookie Austin Pruitt as the long man.

2.  You hope Evan Longoria’s neck stiffness doesn’t become an issue. He is still the big bat the lineup us built around. Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr. and Tim Beckham had good springs offensively. So did Nick Franklin and newly acquired Peter Bourjos.

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Tolleson to begin year on 60-day DL with arm injury

RHP Shawn Tolleson (right flexor strain) and C Wilson Ramos (ACL rehab) will both begin the season on the 60-day DL.

The moves will be made official prior to setting the opening day roster. The deadline is noon Sunday, one hour prior to the Rays season-opener against the visiting Yankees.

Tolleson had back issues during camp that limited him to five appearances, with the last being March 23. This is the first mention of an arm injury. That he was moved to the 60-day DL is significant since it means a lengthy rehab process. 

The two moves also clear room on the 40-man roster  the Rays need to add C Jesus Sucre, INF Rickie Weeks and RHP Tommy Hunter. They will need to clear another 40-man spot and possibly a fourth if OF Pete Bourjos makes the team.

The acquisition of C Derek Norris earlier this week means the Rays do not need to rush Ramos back to the lineup. Moving Wilson to the 60-day allows him more time to get ready and afforded roster flexibility to add one non-roster player to Sunday's roster.

 

 

 

 

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Rays report: Stiff neck keeps Longo out of finale, expected to play Sunday

The look of the Trop this morning with the new turf.

MARC TOPKIN / TAMPA BAY TIMES

The look of the Trop this morning with the new turf.

UPDATE, 9:45: 3B Evan Longoria is not in today's lineup. Manager Kevin Cash said Longoria's neck is still a little stiff, so Longoria has today and tomorrow off. He will be in Sunday's lineup, Cash said.

Cash also said OF Colby Rasmus will begin the season on the DL, but will likely play rehab games next week with the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

UDPATE, 8:22: The Rays are set to work out this morning at the Trop, wihere the new turf is installed. There also appear to be some new video boards.

DEVELOPIING: The Rays wrap up spring training today with a 1:05 game in Clearwater against the Phillies.

RHP Alex Cobb, who was scratched from a planned Sunday start due to left lower back tightness, is scheduled to start for the Rays in his final tuneup before pitching Game 3 of the season on Wednesday.

LHP Blake Snell, the No. 4 starter, is also slated to pitch.

For Cobb, this is a return to the site where he was pitching on March 17, 2015 and hurt his elbow, an injury that led to Tommy John surgery and forced him to miss most of two full seasons. …

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Rays have a sellout for Opening Day vs. Yankees on Sunday

The sellout crowd stands as the American Flag spreads out onto the outfield during the National Anthem on Opening Day before the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Monday (03/31/14).

DIRK SHADD | Times

The sellout crowd stands as the American Flag spreads out onto the outfield during the National Anthem on Opening Day before the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Monday (03/31/14).

Opening Day is a sellout for the Rays.

The team announced that Sunday's season opener against the Yankees at Tropicana Field is sold out. First pitch is 1:10. The game will be shown on ESPN and Fox Sports Sun.

This is the 12th straight year the Rays have sold out their home opener, which they say is the longest such streak among Tampa Bay's major pro sports teams (Bucs and Lightning).

They do note that tickets "are available" for the other six games of the opening week homestand, including the April 8 game against Toronto when the first 15,000 fans will get a Kevin Kiermaier Gold Glove bobblehead.

 

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Austin Pruitt earns spot in Rays bullpen; Schultz, Whitley sent down

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (63) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during a spring training game Saturday, March 18, 2017 in Dunedin.

CHRIS URSO | Times

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (63) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during a spring training game Saturday, March 18, 2017 in Dunedin.

RHP Austin Pruitt could hardly believe the news himself, informed Thursday morning he had won a spot in the Rays bullpen and will make his major-league debut.

Pruitt was chosen over RHPs Jaime Schultz and Chase Whitley, who were both sent to Triple-A.

Pruitt impressed the Rays with his mound demeanor and control, manager Kevin Cash said, and will be used in multi-inning roles. He was a starter last season at Triple-A Durham.

"I'm definitely surprised,'' said Pruitt. "This is an absolute dream come true. I can't believe this is going on.''

Schultz, impressive with a high-octane fastball, will work in relief at Durham. Whitley will be a starter there, but could be called up to pitch in relief.

Cash said it likely will be Friday or Saturday before the Rays make their final decisions on the remaining bullpen spot, with out-of-options RHP Jumbo Diaz the leading in-house candidate, and the bench, where INFs Nick Franklin and Daniel Robertson and OFs Peter Bourjos and Mallex Smith are competing for three spots.

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Rays report: Port Charlotte finale with Odorizzi on the hill

The Rays break camp this afternoon and head to the Trop after facing the Twins in Port Charlotte, first pitch 1:05.

RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, Hector Santiago for the Twins.

The Rays play their spring finale on Friday in Clearwater, have a workout Saturday and then open the season on Sunday against the Yankees.

Several roster decisions remain, including:

* Picking two relievers from the group of Jumbo Diaz, Austin Pruitt, Jaime Schultz and Chase Whitley. They actually picked Pruitt, sending Whitley and Schultz to Durham. They will decide on Diaz after tomorrow's game against the Phillies in Clearwater.

* Picking three bench players from the group of OF Peter Bourjos. INF Nick Franklin, INF Daniel Robertson and OF Mallex Smith.

Willy Adames is back with the Rays today, playing shortstop and batting ninth. Manager Kevin Cash said not to read anything into that, though the Rays do need a shortstop with Matt Duffy headed to the disabled list. Adames is playing three innings today. Cash said the only thing he expects to tell Adames after the game is have a good season.

Here is the Rays lineup:

Dickerson LF

Kiermaier CF

Longoria DH

Miller 2B

Morrison 1B

Norris C …

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3 takeaways from Wednesday's win against the Orioles

3 takeaways from Rays 15-6 win against the Orioles:

1. As first impressions go, newly acquired OF Peter Bourjos made a good one with a leaping catch at the center field wall, three hits, including a two-run homer, and three RBI.

The Rays tried to sign Bourjos in the offseason, because they needed a right-handed hitting outfielder and a backup to Kevin Kiermaier in center. The interested ended when the Rays acquired Mallex Smith from the Mariners for Drew Smyly.

Bourjos provides just what the Rays are seeking. They do need a backup for Kiermaier, so they don’t burn the speedster out with too many games on the Trop’s turf and so they can sit him against tough left-handers. Bourjos brings major league experience, which means he’s not trying to find his way through his first big league season. He can play the other outfield spots so he does add the always important versatility to the roster.

2. I think LHP Xavier Cedeño is going to be a big piece to the Rays bullpen this season, especially with RHP Brad Boxberger out for the start of the year with a lat strain. Cedeño often gets overlooked, which is actually a good thing for a reliever who is not the closer or is not giving up runs.  …

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More roster moves for Rays: Sucre makes team; Casali, Maile optioned

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Luke Maile plays catch during an open workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Luke Maile plays catch during an open workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.

UPDATE, 10:08: With Tolleson "on the outside looking in,'' the Rays have competition for final bullpen spots among Jumbo Diaz, Chase Whitley and prospects Jaime Schultz and Austin Pruitt. ... Cash said he expects both Marks and Moreno to help the Rays at some point this season.

UPDATE, 10:03: Cash said RHP Shawn Tolleson is likely headed to open the season on the DL  as he has been slowed by back issues. He also praised Sucre for winning a spot on the team, noting his defensive skills in particular, and said Norris will get most of the playing time.

UPDATE, 9:49: The Rays have told C Jesus Sucre he will make the opening day roster and have also optioned Curt Casali to AAA.

Also optioned was RHP Ryan Garton.

Resassigned to minor-league camp were LHP Justin Marks, C Michael McKenry, RHP Diego Moreno, and OF Shane Peterson.

Sucre needs to be added to the roster, as do Rickie Weeks and Tommy Hunter. …

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Rays report: Erasmo on mound vs. Orioles in PC, 1:05

Erasmo Ramirez is starting today.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Erasmo Ramirez is starting today.

UPDATE, 8:48: Here is the Rays lineup, with newcomer Peter Bourjos getting right to work:

Bourjos cf,
Norris DH,
Longoria 3b,
Dickerson LF,
Weeks 1b,
Souza RF,
Beckham SS,
Franklin 2b,
Sucre c,
Ramirez p

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back in Port Charlotte for the first of their final two home games of the spring, facing the Orioles at 1:05.

RHP Erasmo Ramirez is starting today, which could be a sign of either wanting to have him stretched out in case there is an issue with one of the starters (such as Alex Cobb's previously stiff back), or so he can pitch multiple innings if one of the starters gets knocked out early, or in showcase for a potential trade.

SS Tim Beckham said he will be back in action today after missing the last two games due to a hip flexor issue.

OF Peter Bourjos has already joined the team, following his Tuesday trade from the White Sox.

 

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Three takeaways from Tuesday's 1-0 loss at Twins

Chris Archer looks as ready as any of the Rays’ starters for his Opening Day start.

AP photo

Chris Archer looks as ready as any of the Rays’ starters for his Opening Day start.

3 takeaways from Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to the Twins in Fort Myers:

1. RHP Chris Archer looks as ready as any of the Rays’ Opening Day starters for his Opening Day start, Sunday against the visiting Yankees. He dealt with an uneven camp in that he left to pitch for the USA in the WBC and had to work with two new catchers – Jesus Sucre, in camp from the start, and now Derek Norris.

Archer said he had some goals for this spring: work on his fastball command, improve his changeup, focus on each pitch and not get caught up with who’s batting. Manager Kevin Cash said Archer put checks in all those boxes. Cash said this is Archer’s best spring during Cash’s three seasons as manager. Archer agrees. It’s hard not to agree.

Archer has worked efficiently, allowed only three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings while striking out 17. Pitchers often shrug off poor spring outings by saying it’s spring and he’s working on something. Archer was working on a lot while dealing with the WBC distraction and excelled.

That might be the best sign on the team heading into Sunday’s opener.  …

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UPDATE: Rays finalize deal to to acquire Peter Bourjos from White Sox

The Rays acquired Peter Bourjos from the White Sox for cash considerations or a player to be named.

JAMES BORCHUCK (2011)

The Rays acquired Peter Bourjos from the White Sox for cash considerations or a player to be named.

UPDATE, 11:00: The deal is now official, Bourjos acquired for cash considerations or a player to be named.

Though he is a class xx(b) free agent, the Rays will delay the decision on whether he makes the opening day roster by paying him the $100,000 retention bonus. That also gives them the option to send him to Triple-A Durham, as he is on a minor-league deal.

Bourjos hit .251-5-23 for the Phillies in 355 at-bats last season with a .681 OPS. …

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Hunter, Weeks will make Rays opening day roster

Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Rickie Weeks (8) rounds the bases on his solo home run in the second inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Rickie Weeks (8) rounds the bases on his solo home run in the second inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Veterans RHP Tommy Hunter and INF Rickie Weeks have been told by manager Kevin Cash they will be on the Rays opening day roster.

The Rays had to make a decision by noon today on the two, as they were classified as xx(b) free agents and signed minor-league deals and either tell them they would make the roster, be released, or paid a $100,000 retention bonus to stick around.

Both figure to play key roles for the Rays, with Hunter joining a bullpen tha will be missing RHP Brad Boxberger for at least the first month, and Weeks playing 1B (or DH) against lefty pitchers.

The Rays are in the process of finalizing a trade with the White Sox (for cash considerations) for veteran OF Peter Bourjos, who is subject to the same restrictions, but it appears they will wait on that decision and pay him the bonus. That also allows the Rays to send him to Triple-A for depth there.

Hunter said this morning he was excited by the opportunity.

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Rays report: Archer facing Twins, Bourjos coming in

Chris Archer is slated to be on the mound for the Rays.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Chris Archer is slated to be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 10:25: There was some good news on SS Matt Duffy, who said an MRI on his surgically repaired left heel was clean and that after four days of rest - with his heel in a cast - it only felt better today but felt "normal.'' But, Duffy said he will be taking it "super slow" to build up strength and then start further testing the heel, which make it premature to even predict when he will be able to start playing. Duffy did say a similar rest program helped him last spring when he was with the Giants, and he played several months with no issues.
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Our latest prediction for Rays opening day roster

Sixth of our weekly semi-educated guesses at the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

PITCHERS (12): Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Xavier Cedeno, Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Jumbo Diaz, Danny Farquhar, Tommy Hunter*, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Snell, Chase Whitley

CATCHERS (2): Derek Norris*, Jesus Sucre*

INFIELDERS (6): Tim Beckham, Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Daniel Robertson, Rickie Weeks*

OUTFIELDERS (5): Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith, Steven Souza Jr., TBD from outside organization*

DISABLED LIST (6): RHP Brad Boxberger, SS Matt Duffy, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Kevin Gadea, C Wilson Ramos, OF Colby Rasmus

* Has to be added to 40-man roster

 

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Rays new Trop offerings include Urban Dugout, Fish Shack, Cuban Favorites

Urban Chicken and Waffle Cone and Urban Mac and Cheese which will be available at Urban Dugout.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Urban Chicken and Waffle Cone and Urban Mac and Cheese which will be available at Urban Dugout.

In addition to announcing new head chef Marcelo Miranda, the Rays and concessionaire Centerplate today unveiled a number of new food and drink offerings at the Trop for this season.

Among the highlights in the release from the team:

* New to the lineup is the Urban Dugout, a food stand operated by Urban Restaurant Group. Their St. Petersburg restaurants-Urban Brew and BBQ, Urban Comfort, Urban Deli and Drafts and Urban Creamery-serve up fresh goodies prepared from scratch. The stand will feature a selection of favorites including their famous crispy fried chicken sandwich, chicken and waffles, homemade mac and cheese and delicious BBQ plates. Crowd favorites Taco Bus, Pipo's and Evan Longoria's Ducky's restaurant all return this season, as well. …

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