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Reporting for duty: Rays hurlers and backstops

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL – Tuesday was Valentine’s Day but that did not stop Rays fans from attending the first open workouts of the spring as pitchers and catchers reported to Charlotte Sports Park to officially kick off the start of camp.

RHP Jake Odorizzi, who’d announced to the media earlier in the day that he had won his arbitration hearing, will make $4.1 million in 2017 – up from the $3.8 million the Rays had put on the table.

“They were pretty gentle with me to be quite honest,” Odorizzi said about the arbitration process. “There weren’t any insults or anything like that. It’s just a weird process. You hear what you do really well and what you don’t do so well. But I’m a good self-evaluator so the stuff that I heard wasn’t anything new to me. I said beforehand I wouldn’t hold any grudges and I stand true to that.”

The Rays spring roster includes 34 pitchers, seven catchers, 13 infielders, and 10 outfielders with 24 of them non-roster invites. Of the 64 players in camp, 30 of them are with the team for the first time in 2017. Among those in camp that weren’t able to be with the team this time last year was RHP Alex Cobb, who was still recovering from Tommy John surgery at the time. This year, he’s back and ready to compete and get back into helping to anchor another young and talented rotation.

“It was great,” Cobb said about his first day of camp. “First full day of workout is awesome. It is a lot different. You get out here and put on your uniform, your pants, and cleats, and you feel like you’re about 10 pounds heavier. Throwing with real baseballs, real catchers receiving. It’s just nice and sunny with grass under your feet.”

On Monday, manager Kevin Cash made it quite clear that there was no clear cut “ace” on the staff despite Chris Archer holding down that spot the last two Opening Days. Three years ago, that spot belonged to Cobb before his injury. Cobb is one of three Rays still on the roster who made their team debut before 2013. Third baseman Evan Longoria and Archer are the other two.

Another new face to the team this year who’s deal was made official Tuesday is RHP Nathan Eovaldi, who turned 27 on Monday. The former Yankee is recovering from Tommy John, himself, and will miss all of the 2017 season while making $2 million with a $2 million option year in 2018 and incentives that could earn him another $3.5 million. Eovaldi went 14-3 in 2015 as a starter in New York pitching in 27 games before going 9-8 in 24 games (21 starts) with the Yanks last season before undergoing surgery on August 19 to repair his flexor tendon in his right arm.

As day one wound down, Cash seemed quite pleased with how his club opened camp for pitchers and catchers.

“Good first day,” Cash said. “It was nice to get everybody out and see everybody. Good energy for the first day. The guys seemed eager to get off the mound.”

NOTES:

  • The first full squad workout will begin on Sunday, February 19th at 10:30 AM.
  • The Rays enter their 20th spring and ninth in Port Charlotte.
  • 10 days until the Grapefruit League opener against the Twins on February 24th at 7:05 in Fort Myers.
  • 47 days until Opening Day at Tropicana Field against the New York Yankees. First pitch is set for Sunday, April 2nd at 1:10 PM.

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