This spring training was an eventful one for the Tampa Bay Rays as not only did they play a game in Cuba, they also set a four-man starting rotation along with letting go of their first baseman of three years, James Loney.
About two weeks ago, the Rays were given the rare opportunity to travel to Cuba and play the Cuban National Team in hopes of promoting diplomacy. With President Barack Obama and Raul Castro in attendance, the Rays beat the Cuban National team 4-1. In this game, James Loney had three RBI’s and a home run while Steve Pearce had an RBI that scored Mikie Mahtook. After the game, the teams exchanged jerseys, signifying the importance of future diplomacy between the two countries.
Surprising to most fans, Kevin Cash set a four man rotation for the beginning of the season (Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore). Even without starter Alex Cobb, who’s been absent due to recovering from Tommy John’s, the team has extraordinary pitching depth, making it odd to some to only have a four man rotation. Erasmo Ramirez, who started last year and had a 3.75 earned run average, was moved to the bullpen instead of becoming what many thought would be the fifth starter in the rotation. One of the reasons the Rays possibly did this was to help relieve the team of losing last years main closer, Brad Boxberger, to an injury. (Boxberger had surgery to repair an adductor brevis muscle; he is expected to miss eight weeks of the season.) Another reason they could have done this is once Alex Cobb comes back, Ramirez would have most likely to been moved to the bullpen. The team may just want Ramirez to begin processing into a middle reliever to add depth to the bullpen and eventually make room on the starting rotation for Cobb’s return.
On March 30th, the Rays announced the release of catcher Rene Rivera and the announcement to James Loney that he will be either released or traded. Last season, Rene Rivera had a batting average of .175, which is significantly lower than the two other catchers on the roster. (Hank Conger had .229, Curt Casali had .238) Even though all of the catchers arent power hitters, the Rays need to increase their run support as much as they can since over the years the their flaw has been a lack of hitting. In Loney’s case, his future is uncertain as it is unknown if he will be released or traded from the team.
With the season starting Sunday, we can only hope that the moves the team made during spring training will benefit them. We will just have to wait and see.
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