The Tampa Bay Rays pitchers and catchers have reported to Port Charlotte to begin preparations for the 2021 season.
The rest of the team will report in the next few days.
The Rays are coming off a season that saw them make their second consecutive playoff appearance and their second World Series appearance in franchise history.
It was a season of change in Tampa, as most off-seasons are for the Rays.
The Rays traded the 2018 Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to San Diego for four prospects. Two of those prospects should make the Rays 26 man roster, pitcher Luis Patino and catcher Francisco Mejia.
The Rays opted not to pick up the option year of pitcher Charlie Morton’s contract. Morton ended up signing a one-year deal with Atlanta.
The Rays traded reliever Jose Alvarado to the Phillies.
The team waived outfielder Hunter Renfroe who signed with Boston, and barring an injury, will start for the Red Sox this season. Catcher Michael Perez and Mike Zunino were put on waivers by the Rays. Perez signed with Pittsburgh, while the Rays re-signed Zunino to a one-year deal plus an option year.
The Rays signed pitchers Chris Archer, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and Collin McHugh to one-year contracts, and all four will have a huge say in how good this Rays pitching staff will be this season.
Catching Ronaldo Hernandez was traded to the Red Sox for two pitchers Chris Mazzi and Jeffrey Springs.
The big question of spring training is going to be the Rays pitching. Who will earn a spot as the fifth starter in the rotation? Who will work out of the bullpen?
The Rays have a bunch of young arms that will be competing for spots in the bullpen.
With the rosters set at 26 this season, there is no limit to the number of pitchers that a club can have on the roster. The Rays could have anywhere from 12-14 pitchers on the roster, depending on the series.
I have the Rays carrying 13 pitchers, five starters, and eight in the bullpen.
Tyler Glasnow, Chris Archer, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and Ryan Yarbrough should make up the Rays’ five-person rotation.
Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, and Collin McHugh will be the right-handers out of the pen. Josh Fleming, Shane McClanahan, and Brendan McKay, along with Cody Reed, are the four left-handers that will battle for the three spots in the bullpen.
That means Luis Patino, Ryan Thompson, and Brent Honeywell will all start the season at AAA Durham.
Catching is all set. Francisco Meija and Mike Zunino will platoon behind the plate. The Rays also re-signed Kevan Smith for additional depth.
Around the infield, Ji-man Choi will be back at first base, with Brandon Lowe at second, Wily Adames at short, and Joey Wendle at third. The Rays will have Yandy Diaz and Michael Brosseau as infield depth.
Rays fans will be excited to see Wander Franco in camp this season. Franco will get a long look at short and could see time at third and possibly second base.
Having not played professionally above the Class A level, it will take one of the most extraordinary camps in baseball history for Franco to make this team out of spring training.
Franco will get his shot sometime this season but won’t make the team out of spring training.
In the outfield, the Rays will return the three starters from last season. Austin Meadows, Kevin Keirmaier, and Manuel Margot.
Last year’s playoff hero Randy Arozarena will probably split time at DH with Yoshi Tsutsugo and platoon in the left-field with Meadows.
Unfortunately, that means Game four hero and Seminole native Brett Phillips is the odd man out in the outfield.
The Rays have 73 players in camp, and with no split-squad games this year in spring training, it looks as if there will be a ton of intramural scrimmages in Port Charlotte.