The Tampa Bay Rays moved one step closer to announcing the Opening Day roster on Sunday, announcing that outfielder Guillermo Heredia and pitcher Jalen Beeks earned two of the final spots.
With news that third baseman Matt Duffy (hamstring) will miss a significant amount of time on the injured list (IL, more on that below), Heredia — acquired from Seattle with catcher Mike Zunino — received the news Sunday that he will break camp with the team.
It went down to the wire, probably a little longer than we would’ve wanted, but he’s very, very deserving. He’s going to complement our team well. He’s a great defender. A guy that can come off the bench and hit or run, be in there against lefties, and then we’ll see where we go. Between him and (Kevin Kiermaier), you have two elite-level center fielders.— Kevin Cash
And while the move is likely temporary, pending the return of Duffy, Heredia said he plans to make the most of this opportunity.
It’s a really important first step in my career, especially coming over from another organization. I’m really happy about the news. It’s a step in the right direction. … Injuries are part of the game. I’m here to contribute any way they need me to help them win ballgames.— Guillermo Heredia
Rays manager Kevin Cash also announced that Yandy Diaz will start at third on Opening Day, although Daniel Robertson and Joey Wendle also will get time there in the interim, mostly since Diaz is slated to play first against left-handed starters.
Beeks earned a spot on the roster thanks to his ability to provide multiple innings of work, serving as a third “bulk inning guy” with Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos slated to work primarily behind openers.
Beeks continued his nifty Spring on Sunday, striking out seven of nine batters across three perfect innings.
Cash has been impressed by Beeks, who increased his velocity and consistency since the start of camp.
Really have seen him make some big steps this spring.— Kevin Cash
The moves leave Adam Kolarek, Emilio Pagan, and Hunter Wood competing for what could be the final roster spot.
As Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) posited though, that’s assuming the Rays stick with Wilmer Font, who has not looked good this spring. But Font is out of options, and the Rays would risk losing him or could put him on the IL.
The 25-man decisions could be finalized by the end of the day on Monday, although the team doesn’t have to submit its roster until Thursday.
Matt Duffy is headed to the IL
As I wrote on Sunday, Matt Duffy will start the season on the IL. Duffy underwent some tests on Sunday, which determined that the injury will take more time than he and the Rays had hoped or anticipated.
He will be shut down for about two weeks after the examinations showed his hamstring issue could be back related.
We’re going to probably take our time, and he’ll probably go to some non-baseball activities for about two weeks, then see how he’s feeling after that.— Kevin Cash
— On Sunday, Rays players got their first opportunity to get familiar with the new LED lighting at Tropicana Field when the team hosted its first pregame workout before the exhibition game against Atlanta in North Port.
One criticism of the Trop has always been the color of the roof which makes it difficult to pick up the rubbed up baseball on fly-balls. The Rays solution:
The team hopes the change will improve playability, with fewer balls getting lost in the roof while providing a more natural look, similar to a blue sky — somewhere between royal and navy blue.
The new blue LED lights shining on the roof are pending approval from Major League Baseball. Per MLB regulations, consistent color for all games, day or night, is expected.
— Michael Weinman, Rays director of game presentation and production
There’sstill people looking at it, as far as what players are going to think, what the team thinks, what MLB thinks. It’s such a new thing . It’s pretty cool looking at night.
However, team officials are confident the change will be approved in the next few days.
Overall though, Rays players and coaches seemed to like what they saw.
I thought it was awesome. Really cool to see it. The feedback was good, fly balls, pop-ups to the infielders. It will be interesting to see it (Sunday night).
From what I’ve been told and seen on pictures, it’s like a darker blue that gives more contrast to the ball. It’s for playing benefits. The roof has always been somewhat challenging, and (this will) help the players track balls.— Kevin Cash
Austin Meadows and Guillermo Heredia, two players with limited experience of playing at the Trop, both felt the blue look helped.
It’s a lot better. It will take some of that glare from the roof.— Guillermo Heredia
Meadows went further, saying “It looks cool.”
Kevin Kiermaier didn’t notice much of a change, although he said any improvement would be welcome.
I’m all for anything that would make that dirty white ball not blend into that dirty white roof as much. For my sake, when I take my eye off the ball, especially balls hit over my head, those are the one I get really frustrated on. I don’t care how many years you play here, you never get used to catching a dirty white ball on a dirty white roof. …
There’s balls every year that give me trouble. It’s not fun being out there. At the same time, I’d like to think that the opposition, over the five years I’ve been here, have more problems than us.
But there’s always a play that’s affected, whether it’s us or the other team. It seems like every night there’s always a play that can affect the game one way or another.— Kevin Kiermaier
Cash and the rest of the coaching staff headed back to Tropicana Field Sunday night for a better look at how blue it will look then.
The team is scheduled to workout three more times at home, not to mention Tuesday’s exhibition game against Detroit, which should help familiarize them with the lights and the new turf before Opening Day on Thursday.