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Rays release reporting dates for pitchers and catchers, home spring training schedule

Kevin Kiermaier, left, congratulates Corey Dickerson, right, after Dickerson homered during a spring training game against the Yankees in March.

CHRIS URSO | Times

Kevin Kiermaier, left, congratulates Corey Dickerson, right, after Dickerson homered during a spring training game against the Yankees in March.

The Rays are getting an early start on spring training, releasing reporting dates for pitchers and catchers as well as the home portion of their exhibition schedule on Monday.

While deposits are being accepted for season tickets ($100 per seat), single-game ticket sales won't begin until January 12. For more information, see raysbaseball.com/spring or call 888-FAN-RAYS.

The Rays will play 14 games at the Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, and a 15th at Tropicana Field on March 27 vs. the Tigers. They open the regular season on March 29 at home against Boston.

Spring workouts will start Feb. 14 for pitchers and catchers, and Feb. 19 for the full squad under manager Kevin Cash.

The full schedule will be released at a later date and is subject to change, but several other teams have also released their home schedule. …

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Arbitration projections for Rays have some surprises

Closer Alex Colome, who made $547,900 this past season, has a predicted arbitration salary of $5.5-million.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Closer Alex Colome, who made $547,900 this past season, has a predicted arbitration salary of $5.5-million.

Estimating the salaries for arbitration eligible players is a key part of the budgeting process for the Rays and other teams, and a tricky one since many aren't settled until January and ones that go to a hearing not until February. …

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Rays keep Rule 5 pick Kevin Gadea in system, outright him to Durham

The Rays now have Kevin Gadea free and clear in their minor-league system for 2018.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

The Rays now have Kevin Gadea free and clear in their minor-league system for 2018.

Remember Kevin Gadea, the young right-hander the Rays took from Seattle in the December Rule 5 draft and were excited about in spring training before he was shut down with forearm issues?

He didn't pitch in any games this season, though he still could end up helping the Rays in the future.

Though players who spent most or all of the season on the DL are subject to Rule 5 restrictions in the next season, the Rays now have Gadea free and clear in their minor-league system for 2018.

That's because they offered him back to the Mariners, who declined, and then got him through waivers. Thus they were able to then reinstate him from the 60-day DL on Sunday and outright him off their 40-man roster and to their Triple-A Durham roster. …

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PETA renews call for Rays to remove touch tank at Trop

PETA has renewed its call for the Rays to remove the touch tank that holds sting rays at the Trop.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

PETA has renewed its call for the Rays to remove the touch tank that holds sting rays at the Trop.

PETA has renewed its call for the Rays to remove the touch tank that holds sting rays at the Trop as well as from a planned new stadium.

PETA took a shot at the Rays majors-worst attendance, the press release accompanying the letter starting with "As the Tampa Bay Rays wrap up yet another season with the lowest game attendance in Major League Baseball."

The gist of the complaint by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is that the rays are at risk of being hit by baseballs and also "are exposed to constant reverberations from boisterous crowds and handling by many different people at once.'' …

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Charlie Montoyo, Kyle Snyder excited about promotions with Rays

Charlie Montoyo will move from the third-base coaching job he had for three seasons to become bench coach.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Charlie Montoyo will move from the third-base coaching job he had for three seasons to become bench coach.

While the departures of longtime coaches Tom Foley and Jim Hickey still seem jarring, Charlie Montoyo and Kyle Snyder are excited about the opportunity to replace them. …

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Rays pitchers react to the departure of Jim Hickey

Said Alex Cobb: "I'm not going to try to explain how great Jim Hickey is. There's really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record."

[WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]

Said Alex Cobb: "I'm not going to try to explain how great Jim Hickey is. There's really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record."

Rays pitchers were shocked to hear of pitching coach Jim Hickey's departure and heaped praise on him:

Chris Archer:
"Hickey is one of the most intellectual people I know. He's also one of the best people persons I know. The combination of his ability to analyze and apply information, as well as communicate to his players is what causes him to enhance pitchers careers, young and old. From him helping me prepare prior to every major league start I've made to our wide-ranging chats after practice, on the plane, over a meal, I'm going to miss many, many things about Hickey and his influence on our organization.''

Alex Cobb:
"I'm not going to try to explain how great Jim Hickey is. There's really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record. All I can say is how fortunate I was to have him when I got to the big leagues. No one could have prepared me better. He has a talent that most organizations search for relentlessly. He will have a great time being a free agent.'' …

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Jim Hickey won't be back as Rays pitching coach, Kyle Snyder to take over

Jim Hickey had been with the Rays for 11 seasons and was considered to be one of the best pitching coaches in the game.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jim Hickey had been with the Rays for 11 seasons and was considered to be one of the best pitching coaches in the game.

UPDATE, 7:49: Cash and Neander both expressed appreciation and gratitude to all three departing coaches - Foley, Hickey, Nelson.

Cash provided some specifics while praising Foley on makign the move:
"We felt for our current major-league club, I felt a change - with his conversation - was in order and felt Charlie Montoyo as our connection has evolved over the last couple seasons, greatly this year, with his experience as a manager would really be an assest going forward with the in-game decision-making and thoughts that come up. We all know that the game moves quick and you can try to map out decisions as best as all of our capabilites, but things adjust. And I felt that Charlie was really, really good at seeing things before they happen, and providing that heads-up in game will be very beneficial going forward.''


He said Foley will remain "very, very much involved" with big-league team and will mentor Cash, staff and players.

 

 

 

UPDATE, 5:57: The Rays have formally announced the moves.

Here is a statement from manager Kevin Cash in the release: …

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Video: Rays head into what looks to be busy offseason

Rays officials talked Monday about starting the process of mapping out their offseason plans, trying to find a way to improve from the 80-win mark. Here is our video report, produced by Will Vragovic:

 

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Mom of Rays INF Daniel Robertson was at Vegas shooting site

Daniel Robertson, left, hugs his mother, Julie, before a game against the Yankees in April.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Daniel Robertson, left, hugs his mother, Julie, before a game against the Yankees in April.

Having run away from the bullets that turned the concert venue into carnage and found at least momentary safety in an adjacent casino, Julie Robertson found some comfort in talking to her four sons, including Daniel, the Rays rookie infielder who was packing up back in St. Petersburg following the season finale.

"I didn't know if I would see them again,'' she said Monday, "so I just wanted to talk to them. ... It was so comforting to hear their voices. It helped. Daniel was right there.'' …

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Tom Foley leaving as Rays bench coach, will take new role with team

Tom Foley will take another position in the organization in what was described as a mutual decision between Foley, manager Kevin Cash and team officials.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tom Foley will take another position in the organization in what was described as a mutual decision between Foley, manager Kevin Cash and team officials.

Tom Foley is leaving his post as Rays bench coach.

Foley will take another position in the organization in what was described as a mutual decision between Foley, manager Kevin Cash and team officials.

"They were looking to make a change and I wanted to make a change and pretty much contemplated a lot of things this year as the year was going on,'' Foley told the Tampa Bay Times today. "It's worked out great for both sides, I think. And I'll start a new chapter in the Rays organization again.''

Foley, 58, has been a member of the Rays coaching staff since 2002, working 13 years at third base and the last three on the bench assisting Cash, making him one of the longest tenured coaches in the majors.

Foley said the travel was "wearing" on him and he looked forward to spending more time around his Palm Harbor home while still working in the game.

He has been with the Rays since pretty much formation of the franchise, hired in 1996 as field coordinator in advance of the first June draft. Foley did that job through 1999, spent two years as director of minor-league operations and then joined the coaching staff under Hal McRae for the 2002 season. …

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Disappointed Rays will need time to assess plans

Rays manager Kevin Cash answers questions during a news conference Monday at Tropicana Field.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Rays manager Kevin Cash answers questions during a news conference Monday at Tropicana Field.

Two things were immediately clear in the Rays season wrap-up media session Monday:

One, that they were disappointed in failing to hold on to the playoff spot they held into August and missing the playoffs while finishing 80-82.

"If we begin to start accepting 80 (wins) or something that's not good enough, I don't know where we're going," manager Kevin Cash said.

Two, that they have a lot of decisions to make but, with the season ending Sunday, they will need some time to talk through it.

"I think it's fair to say all of us will take some time in the upcoming day and assess quite a bit and start forming some opinions and plans to continue to work to improve,"" Cash said.

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For starters: Rays vs. Orioles, wrapping up season 20

Blake Snell, who had a rough previous outing, will be on the mound for the Rays.

AP photo

Blake Snell, who had a rough previous outing, will be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 1:41: A lot of packing and saying goodbyes in the Rays clubhouse this afternoon, with many of the players planning to head to their off-season homes tonight or in the morning. ... Cash said it was his decision to not play Kiermaier, who has been both sick and a bit banged up recently. ... The Rays have a chance today for the 1,500th win in franchise history.

Here is the Orioles lineup:
Hays cf
Schoop 2b
Machado 3b
Mancini lf
Trumbo dh
Davis 1b
Hardy ss
Joseph c
Rickard rf
Gausman p

DEVELOPING: The Rays wrap up their 20th season today with a 3:10 game against the Orioles, trying to reach the 80-win mark.

LHP Blake Snell, who had a rough previous outing, will be on the mound for the Rays. RHP Kevin Gausman is starting for the Orioles.

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria and team MVP OF Steven Souza Jr. are in the lineup for the Rays; CF Kevin Kiermaier is not, nor is SS Adeiny Hechavarria. Curt Casali gets the start behind the plate.

1B Logan Morrison needs two homers to get toi 40, RHP Alex Colome one save to tie the team record of 48.

Here is the Rays lineup:

Dickerson lf,
Duda DH,
Longoria 3b,
Morrison 1b,
Souza RF,
Plouffe 2b,
Casali c,
Smith cf,
Robertson SS,
Snell P

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For starters: Rays lineup vs. Orioles

And then there were three …

The Rays (77-82) and Orioles (75-84) begin the final series of the year tonight at the Trop.

The Rays need a win to clinch third place in the AL East, their highest finish under manager Kevin Cash and their highest since finishing second in 2013, their last playoff season.

Jake Odorizzi is on the hill for Rays.

Former Rays INF Tim Beckham returns to the Trop for the first time since his Aug. 31 to Baltimore. He’s batting leadoff and playing shortstop.

Peter Bourjos is in centerfield for the second straight game as Kevin Kiermaier fights a bug he picked up in New York. Kiermaier said he expects to play the final two games of the year.

Manager Kevin Cash resting some of the regulars to get a look at some players who may or may not be back in 2018.

Here are the lineups:

 

ORIOLES

Beckham SS

Schoop 2B

Machado 3B

Davis 1B

Mancini LF

Castillo C

Alvarez DH

Hays CF

Santander RF

Miley LHP (8-14, 5,52)

 

RAYS

Bourjos CF

Souza RF

Longoria DH

Morrison 1B

Puello LF

Plouffe 3B

Casali C

Miller 2B

Robertson SS

 

Odorizzi RHP (10-8, 4.26)

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Tampa Bay BBWAA picks Steven Souza Jr. as Rays MVP, honors Jake Faria, Alex Cobb also

OF Steven Souza Jr. was voted the Rays 2017 Don Zimmer MVP award by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

RHP Jake Faria was voted the Most Outstanding Rookie, and RHP Alex Cobb winner of the Paul C. Smith Champion award.

Souza ranks in the 3 on the team with 30 HRs, 78 RBIs, an .813 OPS, 80 walks, 16 steals. His combination of homers and steals is unmatched in franchise history, and by only three other players in the majors this season, Brian Dozier, Paul Goldschmidt and this Mike Trout guy. He is hitting .241.

RHP Alex Colome, who leads the majors with 46 saves, finished second and 1B Logan Morrison third.

Faria was a unanimous selection by the writers; RHP Austin Pruitt was second and INF Daniel Robertson third.

Cobb, expected to leave the team as a free agent, was voted the winner of the award given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professsionalism on and off the field.  Souza finished second and Evan Longoria third.

Winners were announced Friday at the Clutch Hitters luncheon and will be presented on the field before the game.

 

 

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More from Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, on a TV network and a hurricane

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg was still in an admittedly "ornery" mood when we talked before Thursday's game, the disappointment of the team letting a playoff berth slip away still bothering him.

Given that, and the fact that the Rays uncharacteristically were buyers leading up to the trade deadline, adding about $7-million to their payroll, made it unsurprising, and even expected, that he said they go into next season likely to cut the payroll, which ended up at around $80-million. He often says that at the end of one season, but I didn't get the sense he was considering a drastic reduction.

Most of what he said was in today's Tampa Bay Times, but is some more of our Q-and-A, with his answer on the TV deal particularly interesting, floating the idea of starting their own network: …

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