PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — One by one, they arrive to redefine the Tampa Bay Rays.
The past offseason included change upon change. It happened on the field. It happened in the front office. Right-hander Chris Archer joked that the Rays will need name tags in spring training. The team has a different feel.
The change, though, presents opportunity. What does it mean for the new faces to be part of the evolution? What’s it like to be a building block within a new structure?
In the coming weeks, we’ll ask new Rays players about how they view their place within Tampa Bay’s new normal. On Monday, reliever Kevin Jepsen, gained in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels on Dec. 16, shared his thoughts as part of the Rays’ new beginning.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: What are your initial impressions of the Rays?
KEVIN JEPSEN: "I’ve heard only good things. Everybody that you talk to that’s played for them or been part of it speaks highly. Playing against them, you know how well they do, and so it’s no secret. So I’m definitely excited to be over here."
FSF: Players have talked about the "Rays’ Way" in the past. What have you picked up about that concept so far?
KJ: "I’ve only been here for a couple days. This is our first day of actual camp, so I’m sure I’ll get a lot more of that as we go on from here. But I’ve been greeted very well so far and made feel very welcome."
KJ: "I love him. It’s awesome. Just being able to talk to him, he seems like a really great guy. I know guys who have played for Cleveland, and he was there as a bullpen coach, and it’s the same thing: Nothing but great things to say about him. I’m very excited to play for him this year, for sure."
FSF: With all the change, do you see opportunity in being on the ground level of a new direction?
KJ: "Yeah, I feel like every year, you come into camp, and you’ve got to look at it to do better than you have in the past. I don’t think you ever get to a point where you’re just like, ‘Yeah, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing.’ I don’t think you ever want to be complacent, and you’re always trying to do better. Yeah, I think it’s going to be a great opportunity, and I’m excited for it. Today is day one. We’ll see how it goes from there."
FSF: Who has helped you the most so far?
KJ: "Everybody has been great. Guys have kind of been scattered coming in here over the last couple days. So right now, I’m trying to meet everybody and put names to faces and hope to remember them the best I can for now. Sometimes, I’m saying hello to the same guy twice."
FSF: What’s the best part about spring training?
KJ: "It’s always nice to get back in here and hang out with the guys. The golfing. But spring training, as a whole, I don’t think there’s anybody who gets super pumped up for the whole (thing). It becomes monotonous. You’re excited at the beginning. About three or four weeks in, you’re excited for the season."
FSF: What’s the worst part about spring training?
KJ: "Just the waking up early. It’s tough. You spend the whole offseason getting into a schedule or a routine. You’re going on trips, and you get up and work out at a certain time, and spring training starts, and you’re waking up two or three hours earlier. It’s all right. You get used to it."