The Tampa Bay Rays coming of a surprising ninty win season are back at work preparing for the 2019 season. The pitchers and catchers have been in Port Charlotte since mid week, while the position players reported over the weekend.
Expectations are high for the Rays this season as owner Stu Sternberg and the Rays front office spoke earlier this week, that they only expect to improve on the ninty win season from a year ago.
Some of the oddsmakers in Vegas have the Rays securing the final wild card playoff spot with eighty five wins.
It is not often that the Rays have gone to spring training with the roster pretty much already set, but that is exactly the case this spring.
Mike Zunino will be the starting catcher with Michael Perez as the back-up.
Arond the infield, Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz will split time at first base. Nathaniel Lowe will get some extensive playing time this spring but will probably start the season at AA Montgomery.
Last years rookie first baseman Jake Bauers was sent to Cleveland as part of the Diaz deal.
Joey Wendle is locked in at second base, Wily Adames at short stop with Matt Duffy at third base. Daniel Robertson should be back and 100 percent healthy and will be the utility infielder as he will play multiple positions around the infield.
Yandy Diaz could also see time at third in addition to backing up Choi at first base.
Brandon Lowe is another good solid utility infielder that will give Robertson some good competition for that spot. Lowe brings that same versatility that Robertson does but has a little more experience in the outfield.
This battle between Robertson and Lowe will be one of the few open competitions for the Rays during spring training with the position going to Robertson.
Tommy Pham, Kevin Kiermaier, and Austin Meadows are the starting outfielders. Fan favorite Kiermaier will be out to try to live up to that huge contract. The last few years Kiermaier has had trouble staying healthy and is out to prove that he can play a whole season.
When healthy, Kiermaier is one of the best center fielders in the game as he was a gold glove winner in 2015 and 2016.
Tommy Pham was very impressive in his short stint with the Rays after coming over from St. Louis last season. Pham also harshly criticized the fans during on interview with XM radio this winter for not showing up at Tropicana field and supporting the Rays.
it will be interesting to see how the fans embrace Pham throughout spring training and the 2019 season.
Austin Meadows will get the nod in right field over Avisail Garcia. Meadows pounded AAA pitching last season and was impressive in the few games he played with the Rays.
The Rays will again go with the opener strategy for the 2019 season. Cy Young award winner Blake Snell will anchor the starting rotation followed by Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton.
Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough, and Jalen Beeks are the candidates to pitch in games started by a reliever. They will usually come in the second or third inning of a game.
Kevin Cash has said the Rays will not announce a closer to open the season. The closers will come from a group of Chaz Roe, Diego Castillo, Jose Alvarado, and Ryne Stanek.
Is this the make-up of a club that can get into the playoffs and win a series? Cash and the front office seem to think it is.
One thing is for sure. This will be an exciting season for Rays baseball as the team will be one of the youngest in MLB.
It will be exciting to see how this team develops and improves throughout the 2019 season.