With the third day of Summer Camp in the books, the Tampa Bay Rays are beginning to look like a real baseball team, not just a group of players participating in drills on the field and beneath the stands.
The Rays combined the four groups and 29 players of the previous two days into a pair of large groups, while still maintaining social distancing protocols on Sunday. The team had several players working in unison on infield drills.
Pretty high energy with the infielders; tried to get their heart rate up a little bit today. Another good day under odd circumstances.— Kevin Cash
The team tightened things up because the pitchers had a lighter workload which gave the position players the ability to utilize more of the field.
Nate Lowe and Yandy Diaz took grounders at third base during the first session, with Mike Brosseau at shortstop and Ji-Man Choi at first base. In the second session, Daniel Robertson and Willy Adames fielded grounders at shortstop with Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle at second base.
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo also took grounders at third from Cash, with Rodney Linares looking on.
And while there were twice as many players working out at the same time, there was still sufficient spacing in the clubhouse since pitchers were housed in the visitor’s clubhouse.
The clubhouse is the most vacant spot in the building throughout the entire day. That was our original concern. We didn’t want guys just sitting in their lockers and even with the added amount of bodies, two bigger groups today as opposed to four, we did not see the clubhouse filling up.— Kevin Cash, on the altered format.
Meanwhile, sluggers Hunter Renfroe, Díaz, and Tsutsugo were grouped together in the same batting practice group, and the trio did not disappoint — hitting more than a few tape measure blasts.
Renfroe and Yoshi started the round off with a pair of loud home runs. Renfroe hit two off the catwalks, and — in the words of the Rays manager — played “pepper with the back wall.”
Renfroe was playing pepper with the back wall. That’s not something you see a lot of guys do.— Kevin Cash
Yet Tsutsugo and Díaz that hit the longest homers of the round.
Tsutsugo launched a blast that caromed off the Moffitt Cancer Center banner past the right-field bleachers on the back wall. And Diaz capped off the round by launching a ball into the Left Field Ledge.
You put Yoshi, Renfroe, and certainly Yandy in a group together, and when they’re feeling it, balls are going to fly out. They put on a pretty good show today.— Kevin Cash
Right-handed relief pitcher Nick Anderson threw live batting practice and said he feels he could jump into a real game tomorrow. There is a caveat, however: Anderson feels his ability to go back to back is not there yet, conceding the next few weeks will be about recovery and the ability to do that.
I think everybody still has to look toward the future. As nice as it would be to only have 60 games and say hey I could throw every game. But the object of this game is to try and play as long as you can as well. I think the team, the staff, everybody understands that, so I think it will be treated as a normal season really.— Nick Anderson
Anderson also spoke on the benefits of a rebound season for Jose Alvarado in the bullpen.
His videos of a 100-mph, nasty sinker are everywhere, so I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.— Nick Anderson
After a disappointing 2019 campaign in which Daniel Robertson slashed .213 BA/.312 OBP/.295 SLG/.607 OPS/.275 wOBA with a 71 wRC+, the infielder spoke about some of the adjustments he made to his swing during the offseason when he worked with Justin Turner’s personal coach. Robertson said the COVID-19 shutdown allowed him to review his Spring Training at-bats and continue to build upon that.
Not many times do you get to put something in the offseason, go put it to use, see what works, see what doesn’t work, and then you get to go back home and keep grinding, keep working on the process. It’s only beneficial from my standpoint. Definitely excited to see how it translates for sure.— Daniel Robertson
Robertson likewise spoke to Turner about the changes he made and noted the importance of using those adjustments rather than emulating another player.
Like Robertson, Mike Zunino made sufficient changes in his swing in the offseason. According to Juan Toribio (MLB.com) Cash says he has certainly noticed a shorter crisper swing where he’s covering balls on the inside corner and off the plate away that he wasn’t covering last year.
As I mentioned yesterday, since the start of Summer Camp Ji-Man Choi has worn protective goggles and a mask on the field, saying he’s been wearing them mostly to get acclimated to the feel since he plans to wear PPE during ball games.
Given the record-breaking number of positive cases in the state of Florida, Choi has reason to be cautious.
I’m trying them on right now, because I want to be cautious. …Before I left Korea, I saw that the confirmed cases are up. I’m worried that if we’re able to start a season — right now we’re doing a lot of social distancing and everything — but when the games go on, I don’t know how that’s going to play out. … I’m just very worried.— Ji-Man Choi
Yet, that is not Choi’s only means of protection. The 1B/DH also has his own brand of hand sanitizer.
Someone that I knew made hand sanitizer, and she thought it would be a great idea to make a personal one and give it out to my teammates.— Ji-Man Choi
When asked if he would provide sanitizer to others, the newly minted hand sanitizer magnate made his Billy Mays like pitch through his interpreter. “If you guys want some, he’ll definitely sell it to you for $10 a bottle,” Nam laughed while interpreting.
No tax.— Ji-Man Choi added in English
All told, 29 players were spotted on the field for the second consecutive day. Tyler Glasnow, Randy Arozarena, Chaz Roe, José Martínez, and Yonny Chirinos were not seen for the third straight day, while Austin Meadows has not been on the field since the first workout on Friday.
The team has not commented on why players were absent, or even if they were working out of sight. It again should be noted that teams have been told not to comment on COVID-19 related issues due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) concerns unless a player gives explicit permission.
— Major League Baseball is expected to release the 2020 schedule this evening. An early draft has the Rays opening up at home on July 24 against the Toronto Blue Jays.