It is the Tampa Bay Ray’s 27th season and it is already off to a solid start. Ray’s ownership announced multiyear contract extensions for President of Baseball Operations Erik Neander and head manager Kevin Cash. Neander and Cash have been instrumental in the team’s consistent success. The Rays have reached the playoffs for the last five years with a .604 winning percentage during that time. Cash has led the Ray’s to a record of 739-617 record, a .545 winning percentage, while navigating through the arduous American League East. These extensions were well-deserved.
The American League East is arguably the hardest division in baseball. The Yankees added Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo to their outfield. The division champions Orioles added 2021 Cy Young award winner Corbin Burnes to their pitching rotation. The Blue Jays signed Justin Turner and projected to DH. Finally, the Red Sox are putting an abundance of faith in youngster Tyler O’Neill and Vaughn Grissom. The division is just as challenging as the previous years.
Departures & Additions
Starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow and centerfielder Manuel Margot were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for SP Ryan Pepiot and OF Jonny DeLuca. After an injury-full 2022 season, Glasnow bounced back with a respectable 10-7 record with an impressive 1.083 WHIP. Pepiot has recorded a strikeout per innings pitched. Conversely, Pepiot’s walk numbers are high which indicated his pitching might be wild and erratic. Same things were said about Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan when they were young.
The Rays traded Swiss-Army-knife-player Luke Raley to Seattle Mariners for shortstop Jose Caballero. Raley played every position for the Rays last season except catcher and second base. Caballero made his debut for the Mariners last season at second base but has experience as a shortstop. With Wander Franco under investigation and Tyler Walls recovering from hip surgery, Caballero might be the Opening Day shortstop. Caballero brings speed and slick fielding to the Rays.
Highly effective relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge was traded to the St Louis Cardinals for Richie Palacios. This transaction fits in well with the Rays playbook of bringing in younger players. Palacios can play infield and outfield.
The addition of Phil Maton to the bullpen is pending a physical. There is a sizeable of excitement surrounding Maton. Maton allowed just one run in 18 postseason outings for Houston Astros. And, Tyler Alexander, formerly of the Detroit Tigers, was picked up by waivers.
After the completion of the 2023 World Series, ESPN posted a “way-WAY-too-early power rankings” article. The Ray’s placed sixth behind the Braves, World Series Champs Rangers, Orioles, Phillies, and Astros. Here we are, the week when pitchers & catchers report and ESPN’s newest power rankings have the Rays at number eight. Buster Onley claims, “Without Franco, can the Rays come close to matching their offensive production of 2023,”. Franco’s above average slash line of .344/.475/.819 will be missed but these numbers are surmountable. It is a long season and in-season moves could be made.
Two unique events will be held this spring. First, the Rays and Red Sox are embarking on a two-game trip, March 9-10, to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The two games will be played in the nation’s capital of Estadio Quisqueya. The other event is called the Spring Breakout. This new league-wide event will display the top prospects of each organization. Spring Breakout is scheduled for March 14-17. Teams will play an exhibition game with only minor league prospects. The event is designed to provide these future stars of baseball with the experience of Spring Training.
Here is the good stuff. This is what you are looking for. Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday February 14. Happy Valentine’s Day baseball fans! Like Billy Beane said, “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.” Fanfest is on Saturday, February 18, tickets are free just sign up for them at the Rays website. The very next day is the first team work out. The Rays will return to the Charlotte Sports Park this spring after a one-year absence. Fans can attend work out sessions, activities normally begin at 10 am. The Rays will host the Atlanta Braves on February 24, 1:05 pm for the first game of the spring. The last Spring Training game is scheduled for March 26 versus the Tigers at Tropicana Field at 12:35 pm. Opening Day is Thursday, March 28 versus the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field at 4:10 pm. Now go enjoy baseball. Time to Rays up!