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 MLB.com.

–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

Rays Spring Training March 6

Sounding more and more like Evan Longoria will be penciled into the No. 4 spot in the lineup this season. Kevin Cash has said he would like to strive to have more of an every-day lineup this season. Longo in the cleanup spot would be a start.

Grant Balfour remains in Australia with his father, David, who has been battling pancreatic cancer for several years. Cash allowed that the Rays are dealing with a sensitive situation and expressed that Balfour was where he should be.

Cal Ripken Jr. will deliver the ceremonial first pitch for Sunday’s game against the Phillies at Charlotte Sports Park. During the game the Hall of Famer will sign his latest book, Out at Home, the fifth in his All-Stars kids series.

Friday’s contest against the Twins marked the 500th spring game in team history.  Six-year-old Josh Fisher threw the ceremonial first pitch to Longoria prior to the game. Fisher, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, celebrated his “Of Chemo Party” in August; his cancer is now in remission. Longoria wears a wristband that Fisher gave him.

After the Rays’ 2-1 win, Cash complimented Mike Montgomery for his 1-2-3 ninth.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 5

Alex Colome has still not been able to report to camp due to visa problems. Kevin Cash was asked if this has become a problem at this juncture.

“Colome is getting his work in [in the Domican Republic],” Cash said. “We know that. … As I’ve said the whole time, we’d like to have him here, but I don’t think it’s fair to punish a guy for being held up.”

Colome is competing to earn the No. 5 spot in the Rays rotation.

Cash explained that he talked to the umpires during the game about the variations of when the time clock starts between innings. There is less time on the clock when pitcher leaves the dugout to take the mound as opposed to coming in from the bullpen.

Cash on Kevin Kiermaier’s throw from center field that nailed Chris Parmalee in the second inning: “Kiermaier’s throw. That was, wow!”

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 3

Kevin Cash noted that everybody on the team is ready to begin games.  Wednesday morning’s abbreviated workout will be conducted in shorts before the teams heads for the annual golf outing.  The Rays Charity Golf Tournament to benefit Rays Baseball Foundation will take place at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Bradenton. All players and coaches are expected to attend.

Cash made a point to compliment Brandon Gomes and Jeff Beliveau for what he saw from both during Tuesday’s workout.

The Rays manager said he exchanged texts with Grant Balfour, but the reliever’s status has not changed while he remains with his father in Australia.  Balfour’s father has been battling pancreatic cancer.  Cash also said there was no new information on Alex Colome.  The right-hander, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, has still not reported due to visa issues.

Pitching coach Jim Hickey and outfielder Steven Souza Jr. will be guests on Thursday’s Hot Stove radio show, airing on WDAE620 AM from 7-8 p.m. live from Hooters (1360 Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte). Hosts Dave Wills and Andy Freed will be joined by Neil Solondz.

Prior to Friday’s Rays-Twins game, Rays players, coaches and front office staff will shave their heads for a fourth straight year as part of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s “Cut for the Cure” event, to pay tribute to chidren fighting cancer. PCF’s 2015 campaign will be kicked off by this event, beginning around 11 a.m. To show support for a player or participant, the public is encouraged to text “PCF” to 20222 to make a $10 donation or visit pcfcutforacure.org.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training March 3

After Monday’s workout, Kevin Cash said the pitchers are getting antsy and want to move past the live batting practice portion of Spring Training.  “They want to see some feedback,” Cash said.

In other words, they’re ready to pitch in games.

Tim Beckham did provide some feedback during coaches batting practice when he hit a ball that cleared the left-field fence and broke the windshield of Drew Smyly’s BMW.

The Rays worked on run downs.  The goal according to Cash: “Basically [get the out] with one throw.”

Cash complimented Minor-League pitching coordinator Dick Bosman for doing a good job instructing the pitchers on holding runners on.

Grant Balfour remains in Australia to be at his ailing father’s side. Cash said Balfour continues to follow a workout program, but “his situation is still very status quo.”  Cash added that he hasn’t gotten the sense that Balfour would be in any jeopardy of not being able to begin the season with the team.

Alex Colome continues to have visa problems, but he is throwing in the Dominican Republic and has thrown to hitters.

–Bill Chastain

Rays March 1 at Spring Training

Kevin Cash cited Mike Montgomery for throwing “really” well on Sunday. He went on to say of the left-hander, whom the Rays acquired from the Royals in the James Shields trade, that Montgomery will be looked at in a relieving role this spring, noting that would be his “quickest way to impact us.”  Cash likes the fact that Montgomery is 6-foot-6 and left-handed. He did not want to compare him to Andrew Miller, but he allowed that Montgomery’s leverage and deception played well.

Cash could be seen hitting ground balls to some of the young infielders in camp, including highly thought of prospects Ryan Brett and Daniel Robertson.

Brett, who came up through the Rays system, is a second baseman who hit .303 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs for Double-A Montgomery last season. “[Brett] stuck out turning the double-play,” Cash said.

Robertson came to the Rays in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics. He plays shortstop and hit .310 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs for Triple-A Stockton. “Robertson looks the part,” Cash said.

–Bill Chastain

Belisario out for two weeks/Don Zimmer Way

Right-hander Ronald Belisario will be out for two weeks due to a fracture of his left shoulder.

The veteran reliever injured his shoulder in an accident that occurred prior to his arrival to training camp. Once he arrived, he had difficulty going through drills, which brought to light the injury.

He will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Rays will designate a path at Charlotte Sports Park as Don Zimmer Way during a Saturday morning ceremony.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Spring Training Feb. 27

Saturday will see the Rays conduct their first full-squad workout of Spring Training.

Friday brought photo day to camp.

“Good to get it over with,” said Kevin Cash of the day. “They put you through the gauntlet a little bit. This might’ve been the best photo day I’ve ever been a part of. It was quick.”

Cash talked about the way the catchers threw the ball during Friday’s workout.

“They all threw the ball really well,” Cash said. [Justin O’Connor], if that was 75-80 percent effort level–that’s what we asked of them–I can’t wait until the 100 percent level comes out.”

Cash and bench coach Tom Foley met with MLB officials regarding the pace of play.

“Major League Baseball is doing a really good job of informing us,” Cash said. “I’ll take some time here in Spring Training–that’s part of what this is for. We’ll be on board. Everybody will get on board with it. … MLB sent a group in to talk [Friday morning]. It was very informative. There’s not many rule changes, but the pace of play is something that is being talked about. We went over the ideas with Major League Baseball, how they’re going to improve it, stuff they’re going to implement. Nothing was alarming at all. It’s pretty common sense stuff.”

Alex Colome is now the only player who should be in camp, but is not due to a visa problem. Cash was asked if there comes a point where he gets concerned.

“I think we’re concerned now,” Cash said. “…It’s getting closer every day, but sure, it starts to be a concern already. Hopefully he’s on track. We’re getting reports that he’s throwing his bullpens and everything. But you want him here. And you want our guys with him and around his teammates with Hick, with our trainers, stuff like that. Doing his maintenance and stuff like that. Hopefully it’s not that much longer. … I’d definitely say we’re counting on him to be right in the mix of everything that’s going on.”
 –Bill Chastain