The Tampa Bay Rays are all set to kick off spring training this week as the countdown begins to opening day on April 8.
The Rays are excited to get to work and begin preparations for a new season. Pitcher Shane McClanahan said “It’s great to be back. I’m excited for all the guys to get here and excited to see everybody.”
Outfielder Brett Phillips is also excited to get to work in Port Charlotte. “Excited to be here in Port Charlotte, to see my teammates, to see my coaches, to see the front office and, most importantly, to finally see the fans. Holy cow, am I excited to see the fans.”
This spring training will be slightly different from previous seasons. The Rays will have just 25 days to get ready for the opener instead of the usual 34 days.
Kevin Cash has reminded the players that this is a marathon, not a sprint. He wants the players to ease their way into the season and not overdo it to risk further injury down the road.
The most important part of spring training will be how the Rays handle the pitchers. You can bet everyone will be on a short leash so that no one wears out their arms too early.
Before the lockout the Rays were busy making roster moves and preparing for the 2022 season.
The Rays signed pitcher Corey Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, to a one-year contract for eight million dollars. Kluber coming off two injury-prone seasons with the Yankees, could be part of the rotation or pitch in long relief. Last season, Kluber went 5-3 with a 3.83 ERA with the Yankees.
The Rays also signed reliever Brock Raley for ten million dollars plus incentives for two years. Raley went 2-3 with a 4.78 ERA. and had two saves with Houston last season. Raley will be able to pitch in various roles out of the bullpen.
The Rays also made five trades before the lockout on December 1.
-INF Mike Brosseau is now with Milwaukee.
-Pitcher Louis Head was traded to the Marlins.
-Pitcher Brent Honeywell was sent to the A’s for cash.
-INF Joey Wendle was sent to Miami for OF Kameron Misner.
The Wendle trade frees up a roster spot for a couple of rookies ready to make their mark in Tampa. Vidal Brujan, and Taylor Walls.
The Rays were also busy re-signing three Veterans to extensions.
-1B Ji-Man Choi signed a one-year deal for 3.2 million dollars.
-C Mike Zunino signed a one-year deal for $7million.
-SS Wander Franco signed for 11 years, $182 million with options and incentives.
The Rays were very active before the lockout, and now that spring training is in full swing, look for the Rays to continue tweaking the roster as they feel they have a chance to win it all in 2022.
A couple of fan favorites could be on the trading block as the Rays may look to trade outfielders Kevin Keirmaier and Austin Meadows. The Rays have plenty of outfielders in Randy Arozarena, Brett Phillips, Manuel Margot, and rookie Josh Lowe, who could take over for Keirmaier in center field, and Meadows in right field.
The Rays love versatility on the roster, so infielders Brandon Lowe and Vidal Brujan can also play the outfield when needed.
Trading Keirmaier would trim the payroll by 12 dollars, and trading Austin Meadows would save the Rays $4.3 million a year.
The Rays are still looking for a bat in the middle of the lineup as there is no guarantee that Nelson Cruz will be back with the Rays. Cruz hit .226 with 13 homers-and drove in 35 runs after the trade deadline. Rumor has it; the Rays are closing in on re-signing Cruz to a new contract.
The Tampa Bay Rays are also looking to sign at least one more pitcher for pitching depth.
There are over 200 free agents available, so you can bet the Tampa Bay Rays will be in the mix for a few of those free agents.
The Rays will open their spring training schedule in Fort Meyers Friday against the Boston Red Sox.