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Rays Spring Training March 26

On Opening Day the Rays will retire No. 66 , the last number worn by long-time senior advisor Don Zimmer. Zimmer died on June 4. Joe Maddon had this to say about Don Zimmer after hearing the news about his number being retired:
“Zim was unique. Zim was unique in the sense he could evaluate players, talk about strategy and still be 80 years old. That doesn’t happen very often. He was invaluable personally. He was a great asset for me. All those players and coaches benefitted from his presence.”

Saturday’s game against the Red Sox is Community Day at Charlotte Sports Park, where the Rays will recognize the team’s community partners in Charlotte County and the important work they do locally. Recognized will be Charlotte County Family YMCA and Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity. Employees and volunteers from each organization will attend as special guests. During the pregame on-field presentation, each group will receive a $5,000 donation from the Rays Baseball Foundation and deliver a ceremonial first pitch.

Drew Smyly’s (left-shoulder tendinitis) bullpen went well on Thursday according to Rays manager Kevin Cash, who added: “Smyly was all good,”

Rene Rivera, who had been nursing a tight left calf, caught on Wednesday and will DH on Friday. If all goes well, he’ll catch back-to-back games over the weekend.

Nathan Karns will start in the Rays’ game against the Red Sox on Saturday and will pitch to Rivera. Meanwhile, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer will each pitch in a Minor League game. Bobby Wilson and Curt Casali will catch Odorizzi and Archer.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 25

Kevin Jepsen will start Thursday’s game against the Yankees. What gives, right?

Seems the Rays wanted to have a “bullpen day” according to manager Kevin Cash.

“We talked about that,” Cash said. “Getting the bullpen guys facing early lineups. Spring Training early lineups. But I don’t know what we’re going to get simply because New York is coming down here. But it was just kind of a thought. We might have another one here, too. Get those guys facing some guys they’re going to face during the season.”

Cash allowed that “ideally” they would like to get their relievers into more game-like situations, though he wasn’t sure they would be able to facilitate said situations.

“…It’s becoming much more difficult now,” Cash said. “There will be a couple of games where we’ll say, ‘Here’s whose on the card, be ready to pitch.'”

First base doesn’t appear to be in the future of Steven Souza Jr. just yet. The Rays have looked at him playing the position some this spring, but for now, Cash maintained he “would look at that more if we were in a pinch.” Logan Forsythe is earmarked as the backup first baseman.

Rene Rivera caught and hit second Wednesday.against the Twins after nursing a tight left calf for the past several days. He homered in his first at-bat against Kyle Gibson.

Rivera will not play Thursday.

“We’re shooting for two days in a row [at some point],” Cash said. “But not right now. He will catch again on Friday. Not sure about Saturday, see how he feels.”

Forsythe and Brandon Guyer each played in a Minor-League game in Port Charlotte on Wednesday. Cash said both hit the ball well.

Alex Colome, who is trying to get back to form after a bout with pneumonia, threw a 25-pitch bullpen on Wednesday. Now he’ll take two days off.

Cash called Matt Andriese “outstanding” for the work he did while starting Wednesday’s game.

“Looks like his pulse is extremely low,” Cash said. “That’s a good thing. Made some good pitches and kept pounding the zone.”

Steve Geltz recorded the final three outs of Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Twins.  In the process, the right-hander struck out two.

“I thought Geltzsy, that’s the best I’ve seen him all spring,” Cash said.

The Rays manager also lauded the performance of Brandon Gomes, who struck out two and did not allow a run in 1 1/3 innings.

“Gomer’s been outstanding all spring,” Cash said.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 21

Kevin Cash told reporters they were not yet ready to make a decision regarding Asdrubal Cabrera’s position. Looking forward, Cash said the decision on whether the veteran will play shortstop or second base could come by Tuesday’s off day.

Grant Balfour will make his first game appearance on Monday against the Pirates.

Nathan Karns, who came to camp earmarked as a possibility for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, is now the leader in the clubhouse to be the team’s No. 3. The right-hander will pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday afternoon, the team’s final off day of Spring Training.

According to union chief Tony Clark, the union shares Major League Baseball’s “concern” over the Rays’ unsettled stadium issue.

Drew Smyly was scheduled to throw off a mound on Saturday morning, marking his first stint off a mound since experiencing shoulder tendinitis following his March 6 bullpen.

Friday night’s seventh annual BaseBALL Gala, held at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, raised $55,000 to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Charlotte County. That brings the seven-year total to approximately $380,000. Rays coaches and several players attended.

On March 23 at noon, the Rays and the St. Petersburg Police Department will launch a new partnership–PARK, WALK and CHEER!–to reward good citizenship with a chance to attend a Rays baseball game at Tropicana Field. Rays president Brian Auld and St. Petersburg police chief Anthony Holloway will announce jointly at John Hopkins Middle School.

Steven Souza Jr. left Friday’s game due to right forearm tightness and is listed as day-to-day.

Cash said Rene Rivera — who is day-to-day with left-calf tightness — could have a stint as a DH in the next day or two. Cash does not expect Rivera to be back behind the plate until after Tuesday’s off day.

Jake McGee will throw bullpens on Tuesday and Friday. The left-hander is returning from elbow surgery and continues to make solid progress toward returing to the team by early May.

Alex Colome is expected to play catch Saturday for the first time since returning from a case of pneumonia.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 20

Evan Longoria started for the fourth consecutive game Friday against the Blue Jays.

“He’s feeling good,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’re going to keep him playing. Play in every game from here on out if he wants, as long as he feels good.”

When a reporter teased Cash that Longoria wanted to manager Saturday, Cash quipped: “That’s fine, too.”

Grant Balfour 38 pitches during a live batting practice on Friday. The veteran reliever will now take two days off before pitching in a game Monday against the Pirates. Balfour, who missed 18 days of camp leading up to his father’s death in Australia, said he felt fine Friday and noted: “I’m under the radar this year.”

As part of the Fifth Annual St. Petersburg International Baseball Series, a team of Rays prospects will host the Canadian Junior National Team at Tropicana Field on Sunday afternoon at 1:05.

The Rays entered Friday’s game on a 7-1 stretch that has seen the team hit .291 with 45 runs scored and 14 home runs. That golden road came to an end with an 11-5 loss to the Blue Jays on Friday that Cash called “probably our first ugly game” of the spring.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 18

The Rays showed some power on Wednesday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium against the Blue Jays. Evan Longoria, James Loney, Richie Shaffer and Curt Casali all homered in the Rays’ win. That’s seven the past two days, six of them solo shots.

Brandon Guyer returned to game action, starting in center field and going 1-for-2.

Chris Archer started for the Rays, allowing no runs on one hit and three walks in four innings. The right-hander sounded pleased with his changeup, which he plans to incorporate more into his repertoire this season.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 15

Monday will be the Rays’ first of two off days this spring, the other will come on March 24. However, Jake Odorizzi will pitch in an intra-squad game that begins Monday morning at 10.

Kevin Jepsen, Ernesto Frieri, Brad Boxberger, Brandon Gomes, and Jeff Beliveau pitched in an intra-squad game at the Charlotte Sports Complex Sunday morning and came away fine.

Grant Balfour is scheduled to throw to hitters on Tuesday and Brandon Guyer (oblique) will be one of the hitters he faces. Hoping to prevent any further irritation of Guyer’s injury, Kevin Cash opted to change Guyer’s plans for the day. Originally he had been scheduled to play against the Phillies in Clearwater.  The Rays manager decided it would be best for Guyer to not take the long bus ride from Port Charlotte.

Allan Dykstra and Juan Francisco hit back to back home runs in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 8-4 win over the Mets at Charlotte Sports Park; Francisco’s was a particularly epic blast.

Cash commended pitchers Matt Andriese and Burch Smith for “competing well” in the three innings each pitched. He also noted that both were “pretty well gassed toward the end” in the sunny 84 degree day.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 12

Corey Brown continues to hit. The outfield hopeful had two singles in two trips to the plate in Thursday’s 10-3 win over the Blue Jays. He’s now hitting .538.

“He rakes,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s hitting everything. Right, left, slider, change-up, fastball. It doesn’t matter.”

The Rays scored eight runs in the fifth inning. Of that inning, Cash noted: “That inning was fun to watch. We were due for one of those breakout innings. Seemed like everybody was squaring up balls. Any time you bat around you’re doing something right.”

Count Cash among those impressed by Steven Souza first home run of the spring, a towering shot onto the boardwalk in left.

“I know it’s impressive how hard he hit it and how far he hit it, but it was a first-pitch breaking ball,” Cash said. “You generally don’t see guys this time of the season adjusting to 0-0 curveballs. I’d say he adjusted pretty well.”

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 11

Alex Colome, who finally showed up in camp on Tuesday after experiencing visa problems, threw at the Charlotte Sports Complex on Wednesday. The right-hander threw 30 pitches and used all four of his pitches.

Hak-Ju Lee doubled in the seventh inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Twins.  But not so fast…

While Lee was busy sliding head first into second, first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg was signaling that Lee’s ball was good for a two-run homer. Lee also had a double in his 2-for-2 performance.

“That was awesome,” said Kevin Cash of Lee’s homer. “He made some unbelievable plays at shortstop, too.”

Boog Powell made a nice diving catch while playing center field in the eighth inning.

Richie Shaffer, the Rays’ top pick of the 2012 Draft, stood out in Wednesday’s win with a double in two at-bats and in the field. Cash noted that Shaffer looked “really good.”

“Has a cannon for an arm,” Cash said.

Drew Smyly (shoulder tendonitis) and Brandon Guyer (mild oblique strain) were both active at the complex Wednesday. Cash does not seem too worried about either getting back on track.  Meanwhile, Alexi Casilla, who was scratched from starting Tuesday due to a tender left ankle, started at third base on Wednesday and went 1-for-3 with a triple.

Catcher Rene Rivera and third-base coach Charlie Montoyo will be guests on this week’s edition of the Hot Stove radio show, airing on WDAE 620 AM from 7-8 p.m.  Dave Wills and Andy Freed serve as hosts and they will be joined by Neil Solondz.

Former Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine will make his radio debut during Thursday’s Rays-Blue Jays game. Solondz also will be in the booth as their broadcast airs on

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 10

Kevin Cash had nice things to say about Burch Smith’s second outing of the spring.

Smith allowed a run on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts in three innings against the Pirates Tuesday.

“He looked good,” Cash said. “He had a good fastball/changeup combo going. Really crisp early on. Was able to pitch out of having some runners on base. The ball comes out of his hand really well.”

Smith is a longshot to win the fifth spot in the rotation behind Alex Colome and Nathan Karns.

Former Rays right-hander Shawn Camp announced that he has officially retired from baseball.

Cash said the team expects Grant Balfour to be back with the team by next week. The veteran reliever has been in Australia with his father, David, who has been battling pancreatic cancer.

Reliever Jim Miller, who signed with the Rays last week, said he’ll probably make his first appearance of the spring on Sunday against the Mets in Port Charlotte.

Brandon Guyer (oblique) said he’s feeling pretty good. Cash said Guyer was doing more “rotational stuff” and noted that he expects the outfielder to be out at least until March 15.

Cash said Drew Smyly (mild tendonitis in his left shoulder) “Had a really good day today.”

“Advanced his workload,” Cash said. “Did a sock-throw drill where you put the sock on your hand and throw the ball. And he felt good. I talked to him in the dugout today. He was very optimistic.”

Evan Longoria lost control swinging at a pitch in the second, sending his bat into the stands along the third-base side of Charlotte County Stadium. The bat struck a fan.  After the Rays hit, the Rays third baseman showed his concern for the fan by walking toward the stands while the fan was carted away on a stretcher.

Alexi Casilla was scratched from his start at second base against the Pirates due to a tender left ankle.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 8

Chris Archer said he threw 10 changeups in Sunday’s start. The right-hander is trying to improve the pitch this spring to offset his fastball and slider. Archer hit 97 mph with his fastball, of which Archer said: “Normally in Spring Training that’s where I’m at [with velocity].”

Kevin Cash noted that Archer was quicker to the plate, too.

The Rays looked a little sloppy in the field during Sunday’s loss to the Phillies, prompting Cash to note: “We can do a little bit better catching the ball-wise.”

The Rays manager spoke highly of utility-man Jake Elmore. “He gives you a good at bat and can play everywhere,” Cash said.

Corey Brown is now 3-for-4 with two doubles and a home run. Fellow non-roster invitee Joey Butler got the Rays’ first hit Sunday and is hitting .375.  “[Brown] and Joey Butler are midseason locked in,” Cash said.

Cal Ripken Jr. threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Sunday’s game at Charlotte Sports Park. The Rays had a little fun with the Hall of Famer by having Boog Powell — no relation to the great Boog Powell who once played for the Orioles — catch Ripken’s toss.

This week is spring break, which brings Charlotte County Public Schools Employee Appreciation Week. The Rays are offering the approximately 2,200 teachers and employees of the Charlotte County Public School system free tickets to one of three games, including Sunday’s, March 10 vs. Pittsburgh or March 12 vs. Toronto.

–Bill Chastain


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