Versatile Rays hold first spring workout
Staff ace Price believes Tampa Bay has everything it needs after offseason moves
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Spring Training officially began for Rays pitchers and catchers Saturday morning as they participated in their first workout.
Tampa Bay's 17th Spring Training, and sixth in Charlotte County, opened with 40 pitchers and catchers in camp.
"I feel like we have everything, man," said David Price, when asked about this year's team. "I feel like a Tampa Bay Rays team ever since I've been here has always been very versatile, but the team that we have on paper right now, it's pretty darn good. It's something everybody watches in the offseason. ... Just watching the moves our front office is making, all the guys they brought in, I think it really made us a lot better."
Players took the field at 10 a.m. ET and listened to several speakers, including manager Joe Maddon, before getting to work. All subsequent workouts will begin at 9:30 a.m., except for the first 10 a.m. full-squad workout on Thursday, when the camp expands to 64 players, including 24 non-roster invitees. For all Spring Training workouts, admission and parking are free.
"I am always excited to get back with the guys and work toward a World Series ring," Maddon said. "[Executive vice president of baseball operations] Andrew [Friedman] and the boys have done a great job of assembling a championship-caliber roster. Beyond the starting group, I really like the potential of the bench and bullpen. Versatility again will be key, and the bullpen has the experience necessary to win the final game of the year."
All nine players who started defensively for the Rays in their final game of the 2013 postseason are back in camp this season. That's the first time that has been the case since Spring Training in 2002, and it includes all of the infield starters from Opening Day 2013: James Loney, first base; Ben Zobrist, second base; Yunel Escobar, shortstop; and Evan Longoria, third base. All four were finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award at their positions. On only two other occasions has Tampa Bay's Opening Day starting infield from one season been in training camp the next season: 1998-99 and 2008-09.
This spring's 40-man roster has 21 players who have been acquired via trade.
Price headlines the group of 40, which is a big surprise to many who thought the staff ace would be traded.
"He's kind of been the man at the helm for us," pitcher Matt Moore said. "And he's definitely the leader in the clubhouse. So we're looking forward to getting behind him again."
With Price returning, the rotation will be the same group except for Jeremy Hellickson, who recently underwent surgery to have loose bodies removed from his right elbow.
Jake Odorizzi will be first in line to fill Hellickson's void. He was the Rays' highest-ranked prospect (No. 56) on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list. Odorizzi's first year in the organization saw him split time between Triple-A Durham and the Major Leagues. He served five stints with Tampa Bay, finishing at 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in seven appearances, four starts. Odorizzi posted a 9-6 mark with a 3.33 ERA in 22 starts for the Bulls.
"All I can do is what I have to do to get ready," Odorizzi said.
If Odorizzi does not win the job, right-hander Alex Colome is the best bet to do so.
The Rays also will have to decide which way to go with their 13 position players. Not having a true designated hitter will allow Tampa Bay some flexibility in this regard.
"[This is] definitely an interesting group to go to work with every day," Maddon said.
The Rays will open their Grapefruit League slate on Feb. 28 with a 1:05 p.m. game against the Orioles at Charlotte Sports Park. Tampa Bay will open the regular season with a 4:10 p.m. game on March 31 against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.