PORT CHARLOTTE, FL – It was a bit chillier on Friday as the Rays welcomed in the full squad of over 60 players to Port Charlotte. Evan Longoria and Rickie Weeks were the last two names to report to camp along with newly signed RHP Tommy Hunter. Under a beautiful blue sky and weather in the 50s, the Rays pitchers, catchers, and position players trotted onto their respective fields to wind down the first week of spring camp.
One of the names manager Kevin Cash spoke very highly of today was new OF and Florida native, Mallex Smith.
“Very impressive,” Cash said after the day was wrapped. “You can tell that he takes it (bunting) very seriously and we hope we can learn a few things from him on that.”
Speed has been something the Rays haven’t had much of in the years since Carl Crawford and BJ Upton were the main threats on the base paths. With Kevin Kiermaier the only real base stealing threat in the last few years, Cash said the speed of Smith is absolutely an added weapon.
“It can be a pretty big weapon, Cash said. “We always talked about last year finding a guy that can compliment KK. I can’t wait to get a spring training game and get KK and Mallex on base together and someone hits one in the gap. It’s gonna be fun to watch.”
Smith, always smiling, wears his bunt game and speed proudly.
“I pride myself on my overall player,” he said in the clubhouse after finishing his day. “I feel like when I come to the plate you don’t really know what to expect from me. I feel like I can swing the bat. You also have to respect my bunt game and my legs. It’s hard to play me and it’s hard to position me.”
RHP Jose De Leon has been nursing back spasms this week and spoke with the media after getting some work in Friday.
“Today I felt great,” he said. “The motto is to get 1% better every day and that’s what I’m here for.”
Other players rehabbing injuries are SS Matt Duffy and C Wilson Ramos.
Duffy says he feels like the last two weeks of spring will be plenty of time to get him into shape for Opening Day while Ramos is still hoping to get back in the lineup, even as a DH, as early as May.
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