Rays pitchers, catchers report for spring camp
Arrivals flowing in Tuesday in advance of Wednesday's first workout
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Pitchers and catchers reported to camp Tuesday for the Rays' 16th Spring Training, and fifth in Charlotte County.
Thirty-five pitchers and seven catchers will be on hand at Charlotte Sports Park for Wednesday's first workout.
Gone are James Shields, Wade Davis, J.P. Howell and Burke Badenhop, but returning will be the familiar faces of David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb. Among the newcomers joining the team at camp are Roberto Hernandez, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi.
In Shields' absence, Price stands as the de facto leader of the pitching staff. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner deferred said designation to the rest of the staff.
"I feel like this is kind of an open committee with this team and our pitching staff," said Price, whose eyes were swollen due to allergy problems. "If anybody feels like they need to say something, they're going to speak up. If anybody wants to ask anybody a question, they're going to ask. That's always the way we've kind of done it. We definitely looked at Shields as a leader, but it wasn't just him."
Price noted that all of the players in the clubhouse are comfortable asking each other questions they need to ask.
"Nobody here is scared to ask anybody else," Price said. "We're all friends. So it makes it easy to approach somebody and ask them about whatever you want to talk to them about. Whether it's during a game or while you're doing PFPs, stuff like that. They do a good job of getting the right guys in this clubhouse. And it makes it a lot easier to talk to everybody."
Players will take the field on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET; all subsequent workouts will start at 9:30 a.m. ET.
The Rays' first full-squad workout will take place on Sunday, when camp expands to 65 players -- including 25 non-roster invitees. Admission and parking are free for all Spring Training workouts.
In the field, Tampa Bay will also see change. B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Jeff Keppinger have all moved on. New to the team are shortstop Yunel Escobar, first baseman James Loney and infielder/outfielder Kelly Johnson.
However, Evan Longoria will be back -- and after minor offseason surgery to repair his right hamstring, the Rays are hoping their best offensive player will be healthy for the whole season. Also returning are Ben Zobrist, Jose Molina, Ryan Roberts, Sean Rodriguez, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Sam Fuld and Jose Lobaton.
Longoria likes what he has seen of the Rays' roster this spring.
"I actually did something that I've never done," Longoria said. "I looked at the roster before I came to [Spring Training] this year. It was good to see. The further you get along in your career, when we sign free agents, you know a lot more about these guys."
Longoria was among a handful of position players reporting early. He talked about the process that takes place during Spring Training.
"I think the first two weeks of games, three weeks of games, are guys just getting their feet wet again, getting back into game situations at game speed. And then towards the end, it starts to ramp up," Longoria said. "I think towards the end, you start to really care about your at-bats, about how your body is feeling, about how your work is going. But the games don't count in spring, so you can't put a whole lot of stock into your numbers or your results. I think the more years you have played and the more Aprils you go through, the more you realize how important the spring is for you."
Other highlights for the coming Spring Training include the following dates:
Saturday: The 2013 Rays Fan Fest begins at 10 a.m. ET at Tropicana Field. All of the club's players and coaches are expected to attend.
Feb. 23: The Rays will play their Grapefruit League opener at 1:05 p.m. ET -- a split-squad affair against the Pirates at Charlotte Sports Park. Tampa Bay will also send a squad to Fort Myers that day to battle the Red Sox at JetBlue Park in a 1:35 p.m. ET tilt.
March 2: The first workout for Minor League pitchers and catchers takes place at Charlotte Sports Park. Minor League position players will have their first workout on March 6.
March 30: The Rays will play the Tigers at Tropicana Field in their final exhibition contest of 2013.
Directions to Charlotte Sports Park from I-75 are as follows: Exit the interstate at Toledo Blade Road (Exit 179) and go west for approximately 6 1/2 miles to El Jobean Road (SR 776) and turn right. Charlotte Sports Park will be on the left in approximately two miles.
Spring Training tickets are available online at raysbaseball.com and via phone at 888-FAN-RAYS. Fans can also get tickets at the Charlotte Sports Park box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, Rays Tampa Store at 400 N. Tampa St. and at the Tropicana Field box office.
Single-game tickets will range in price from $10 to $27. Spring Training season tickets are available by visiting raysbaseball.com or calling 888-FAN-RAYS, and start at $289 for Tampa Bay's 17-game home schedule.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.