Catcher Jesus Sucre and INF Brad Miller reported to camp on Friday, bringing the total number of Rays players — both rostered and non-rostered — in Port Charlotte to 64. The four players not yet in camp are SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Denard Span, INF Andrew Velazquez and OF Justin Williams, although position players don’t have to report until Sunday, with the first full workout scheduled for Monday.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 16, 2018
Sucre told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) his delayed arrival was a product of the slow process in getting a visa in his native Venezuela. Even with an emergency filing and assistance from Rays officials, he still had to spend days waiting for the call to come in, which finally came Wednesday.
With all the problems they’re having down there, it’s not easy to get a visa, Sucre said. A couple years ago, they did like 20 appointments a day for baseball players, this year they were doing like three.
Sucre flew into Miami Thursday night, then drove to Port Charlotte and arrived around 3 a.m. In spite of the late night arrival, the backstop took part in his first spring workout with Rays hurlers.
— Will Vragovic (@willvrag) February 16, 2018
Brad Miller told reporters he feels “great” in recovering from October core muscle repair surgery. Miller is expected to slot in as the primary first baseman this season and could play an integral role in the offense assuming he can bounce back from an abysmal 2017 campaign.
Kevin Kiermaier addressed the media early Thursday morning. The Outlaw said he’s as excited as he’s ever been to start Spring Training. Part of his excitement is that he feels he has a lot to prove, both to himself and his teammates. Well, them and the rest of world.
Or in Kiermaier’s own words,
The best defensive player on this planet.
Kiermaier also is prioritizing a larger leadership role on the Evan Longoria-less team, and improving his performance at the plate. You can hear the entirety of his presser below, courtesy of Rays Radio.
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg made his first visit to camp, after having met Thursday with commissioner Rob Manfred.
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) February 16, 2018
Topkin wrote about Sternberg’s visit, saying that the principal owner largely focused on the effort to build a new stadium in Ybor City:
After hearing commissioner Rob Manfred say Thursday that it was imperative Tampa Bay businesses get behind the effort to build a new stadium on the Ybor City site, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said conversations have thus far been preliminary but promising.
“Genuinely these people who are very exciting recognize potentially what baseball does for a region and especially what it can do for that site,” he said while visiting camp. “It’s educating senior business leaders and those who have shown a willingness and desire to be civic leaders and ask them how the feel about it and tell them what we’re trying to do and why we think that it is important.”
Sternberg praised Chuck Sykes and Ron Christaldi, leaders of the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2020 steering group, for “carrying a huge amount of water so far.”
Sternberg said he wouldn’t expect to get specific financial commitments “for a long time” but believes in taking people at their word.
Yet Topkin listed the constraints weighing on the team on Thursday, writing 1. as hard as it was, and as long as it took to get to this point, the most challenging part of the task ahead is developing the financing plan, 2. the Rays are going to have to write a big check, too, certainly larger than the $150 million principal owner Stuart Sternberg first floated, and 3. the Rays have a long way to go until they are dodging the Ybor chickens and navigating the brick side streets to hold a groundbreaking. And not that much time to get there, given that their deal with St. Petersburg about an early exit from the Trop use agreement expires in less than a year. This from the official mouthpiece of the Tampa Bay Rays.
No worries though, especially when you have the official newspaper of the team, in a sense, advocating for a tax increase on Hillsborough citizens.
Lots of attention paid to @Braves ballpark as possible model for @RaysBaseball. Another new @MLB stadium is on the way. Check out latest on @Rangers plan. 1) classic look 2) no mass transit 3) $1.1 billion price tag. 4) Open by 2021
— Charlie Frago (@CharlieFrago) February 14, 2018
Finally, the Rays were among the 15 or so teams scouting former Giants ace Tim Lincecum during a Thursday workout in his comeback bid. The hurler last appeared on a major league field in 2016, playing for the Los Angeles Angels, with whom his fastball averaged in the mid to high 80’s. Yet reports from his showcase indicated that he was sitting in the low 90’s.