It may be Valentine’s Day, but Tuesday February 14 also marks the opening of spring training for the Tampa Bay Rays.
It seems like it was just yesterday that the Tampa Bay Rays concluded the 2016 season and here we are four months later and the smell of fresh cut grass, the pop of the ball hitting mitts and coming off the bats is just days away.
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays will open their doors at Charlotte Sports Park to begin their 20th spring training and their ninth in Port Charlotte as manager Kevin Cash and his staff welcomes the 32 pitchers and catchers vying for the opportunity to crack the 25-man opening day roster.
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Five days later, on February 19 at 10:30 a.m. the first full workout is scheduled when camp will expand to 59 players, including 19 non-roster invitees. For all spring training workouts, admission and parking are free and workouts this year will begin at 10:30 a.m. (subject to changes).
It has been a very busy offseason for the Tampa Bay Rays, with plenty of trades and free agent signings. So far, President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman and VP/GM Erik Neander have added 15 players to the 40-man roster. Six of the players added have come from outside the organization the others were added to the 40-man roster from the minor leagues.
The most notable additions to the 2017 team that arrived via free agency are catcher Wilson Ramos, pitcher Shawn Tolleson, and outfielder Colby Rasmus. Wilson comes from the Washington Nationals where he was a first-time All-Star in 2016; however, a late season knee injury that required surgery will delay his Rays debut. Tolleson arrives having pitched last season for the Texas Rangers, where he had been their closer. Rasmus joins the Rays from the Houston Astros, and comes with a powerful bat as evident by four 20-homer seasons.
It is strange but true, of all the players on the 40-man roster just one remains from 2008 and that is Evan Longoria. Longoria (2008) is also just one of three players that made their debut prior to the 2013 season, and he is joined by Alex Cobb (2011) and Chris Archer (2012).
Age is just a number and entering spring training, the Rays have only four players that are over 30 years-old. Eddie Gamboa (32), Longoria (31), Rasmus (30) and Xavier Cedeño (30) are the elder statesman.
While spring training statistics do not count, the players though take their hitting and pitching very serious. The same goes for winning and or losing games – as sometimes it can be an indication to how the season plays on.
Last spring, the pitching staff ranked fourth in the majors during this time with a 3.78 ERA (238-IP, 100-ER), however, that was not the case during the regular season… going one step beyond, over the past three springs the Rays pitching staff led the majors with a 3.33 ERA.
Many of the Rays spring training records happened when they dropped the “Devil” and became just the “Rays” in 2008. Matter of fact, in 2008 the Rays won their first Grapefruit League title with an 18-8-2 record and they would add two more titles (2010, 20-8-2 record and 2014, 16-7-4).
In the 10 years before becoming the Rays, they were unable to win at least 15 games – since 2008 they hold the majors fifth-best spring training record and third best in the Grapefruit League behind the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays.
2016 RAYS FINAL SPRING TRAINING LEADERS
Games: 9 Dana Eveland, Danny Farquhar Games Started: 5 Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly Wins: 3** Erasmo Ramirez, Drew Smyly Losses: 2 Chris Archer, Jhan Mariñez, Jake Odorizzi ERA (min 15 IP): 2.70 Drew Smyly Innings: 20.0 Drew Smyly Walks: 10 Jake Odorizzi Strikeouts: 21 Drew Smyly
Avg. (min 40 AB): .317 Kevin Kiermaier At-Bats: 47 Corey Dickerson Runs: 10 Logan Forsythe Hits: 13 Kevin Kiermaier, Logan Morrison Doubles: 7 Desmond Jennings Triples: 2 Kevin Kiermaier Home Runs: 2 Several RBI: 9 Steven Souza Jr. Strikeouts: 21 Drew Smyly SB: 3 Kevin Kiermaier *Ties Rays Spring Record ** Club Record
For those attending spring training games at the Charlotte Sports Complex, the ballpark gates open two hours prior to scheduled game time. Pregame workout schedules are as follows:
The Rays full spring training schedule and all the information you need about Charlotte Sports Complex can be found at Inside Rays Spring Training.
This spring also marks the fourth World Baseball Classic, one reason for the early opening to spring training. The Rays will have four players (all pitchers) heading to the WBC, led by Chris Archer (USA), Alex Colome (Dominican Republic), and Jose De Leon (Puerto Rico), and Jose Alvarado (Venezuela).