Amid high expectations following a wildly successful 2018 campaign, the Tampa Bay Rays took the field in Port Charlotte Monday morning for the first full-squad workout.
Things started off with a team meeting led by manager Kevin Cash, whose message was straight forward.
We’ve got work to do, we’ve got to get better. We are a good team, but there is work to be done.— Kevin Cash
Veteran centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier iterated a similar missive to the other 65 players in attendance.
I’m not trying to hype us up or anything but given the talent and depth and versatility, we’re in a very dangerous position, and that’s a compliment towards us. At the end of the day though we need to go out there and do what we need to do and back up all this talk and expectations. It’s a fun thing to think about. And that’s why I’m excited to take the field with these guys.— Kevin Kiermaier
From there, the position players took to the batting cages on the back fields of Charlotte Sports Park, while the pitchers threw their requisite bullpen sessions and live batting practice. Among them were Oliver Drake, Austin Pruitt, and Ryne Stanek.
Stanek hit 99 mph in his first live bullpen session to hitters, some of which had not seen velocity like that since last season.
No judgement passed whatsoever; probably more laughing than anything else.— Kevin Cash
Cash was pleased by the work the players, both rostered and non-rostered, put in on Monday.
It was good to see all the guys, it really was.— Kevin Cash
Thefirst day, the energy was good. … Awesome to put some faces and names together.
— Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), new catcher Mike Zunino said he’ll give up some live BP at-bats next few days to spend more time catching so he can get familiarized with as many pitchers as possible.
— As I wrote yesterday, reliever Ian Gibaut said an MRI exam on a right lat strain showed “everything was intact.” Gibaut is not expected to throw for the next few days, and there is no timetable for when he will retake the mound. Cash said they will know more after he sees a specialist in New York to look over the results.
— Principal owner Stuart Sternberg, as well as his son Sandy, were on hand to watch the workout.
— In an MLB spring media event in West Palm Beach on Sunday, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Major League Baseball and the Rays ownership group “remain focused” on finding a solution to the stadium stalemate in the Tampa Bay market. Manfred said they “are going to turn over every last stone and possibility” to do so, noting that the focus was back on St. Petersburg. “We feel that the commitment to our fans in those existing markets is a really important one,” he said.