The rain cleared and the clouds parted in Port Charlotte on Thursday, and more than 12 Tampa Bay Rays pitchers threw off the mound, including number one and two starters Charlie Morton and Blake Snell.
Both hurlers got the chance to throw to catcher Mike Zunino, who was acquired from the Mariners this offseason. Zunino spoke with the pitchers after they threw, which made a big, early impact on the staff.
Rays manager Kevin Cash spoke highly of Zunino, who made a good first impression.
He’s energetic. And you already see why he’s made so many good relationships over the course of his career, just how outgoing the personality is.— Kevin Cash
Snell also spoke in Superlatives about Zunino.
It was cool. Just kind of starting to get to understand each other, what I like to do and what he saw, so it was cool to just go back-and-forth on me helping him, and him helping me. I was very happy about it.
… For him, he’s very into it, so it could be as soon as when spring is over, it could be middle of the spring. It all depends on our relationship as 1) just friends, and 2) how hard do we want to work with each other to get to the place we want to get.
I’m already very comfortable talking to him. He’s very open, which is awesome to see. It feels like we’ve known each other for a while with the way that we talk. … For him to come in here and be as open and outgoing as he is right away is awesome to see. I like what he had to say back to me and I’m excited to see the relationship between us grow.— Blake Snell
Hunter Wood, Jalen Beeks, Andrew Kittredge, Wilmer Font, and Adam Kolarek also threw bullpen sessions.
Cash was quite impressed with Pagan, who was acquired from Oakland. Pagan, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, has been very good against right-handed hitters over the span of his career. Yet success against left-handed hitters has eluded him. Because of it, Pagan added a 12-6 curveball to his fastball/cutter/slider mix and is reportedly experimenting with a changeup.
I heard when we acquired him he’s got a chance to do some special things. And the first bullpen, the breaking balls, everything looked really crisp,— Kevin Cash
s’othat was good to see.
Font, who missed the final three months due to a lat strain, has already made a strong spring impression, and he has been asked to hold back a little because of it.
Wilmer is pretty impressive where he is from a physical standpoint. We asked him to kind of temper it down a little bit because he’s just lighting up catchers’ mitts right now.— Kevin Cash
Kittredge spent a month of the offseason working with Driveline and continues to work with a weighted ball. The right-hander is anxious to see how the work may impact his stuff this spring.
He also spoke with Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre in December about having his three-game suspension rescinded and was pleased with the decision, which lifted a weight off his shoulders. He still has to pay a $1,500 fine for throwing at the head of Austin Romine (Yankees) in a late September game.
Daniel Robertson arrived in camp on Thursday, as 59 of 66 players have reported. According to his Twitter account, Kevin Kiermaier is set to arrive on Friday.
Last day of the offseason for me! CANNOT wait to drive down to port charlotte tmrw!! My body has never felt better thanks to @dieseltampa workouts they put me through and huge thanks to @UT_Baseball for allowin me to get my baseball work in with you guys!! Yo soy listo!!!! ⚾️⚾️— Kevin Kiermaier (@KKiermaier39) February 14, 2019
The New What Next
Pitcher and catcher workouts will continue on Friday. Reliever Chaz Roe, who tweaked his back, says he feels better and is on pace to throw on Saturday.
— Hmmm, that’s a bit, uhhh….