How Rosario might fit on 'tremendous' Rays roster

February 21st, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- A day after officially signing with the Rays, reported to Charlotte Sports Park and took part in his first Spring Training workout with his new team.

Rosario, who will wear No. 10, ran through defensive drills at shortstop and took batting practice on the field Wednesday morning as he got to know his teammates. It was a relatively short trip down Interstate 75 for Rosario, who has made Tampa his offseason home since 2020.

“It’s a tremendous team,” he said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “They have a lot of young players here, a lot of bright players, and I think it’ll be a good opportunity for me to be able to play here, too.”

Manager Kevin Cash, who joined president of baseball operations Erik Neander to meet with Rosario for lunch last weekend, said he expects Rosario to play “a lot.” He’ll be in the lineup against left-handers, given his excellent career splits against southpaws. He’ll back up José Caballero at shortstop and Brandon Lowe at second base, and the Rays will give him a look in the corner-outfield spots this spring.

“He's a guy that [has a] pretty good track record at the Major League level,” Cash said. “I think he knows what it takes for him to be good and certainly knows what it takes for him to impact our roster in the right way.”

Cash said the Rays also received rave reviews, including one from former Cleveland manager Terry Francona, about Rosario’s character and clubhouse presence. Illustrating that point, the 28-year-old said he’ll play whatever role he’s asked.

His defense at shortstop did not grade out well last season, but Rosario said he’s always comfortable playing there. He also said he’s gotten more accustomed to second base after moving to that side of the bag following a midseason trade to the Dodgers last year.

Rosario is also feeling good at the plate after spending some time over the winter at the data-driven Driveline Baseball facility, where he worked to tweak his launch angle in hopes of hitting the ball in the air more frequently.

“I think that'll help me a lot,” he said.

Harold in the outfield
Harold Ramírez reported to Spring Training having lost about 15 pounds over the winter, and he did so with a goal in mind: He wants to play more outfield this year.

“I feel great,” he said. “I just tried to get ready to play … because I really want to play some defense. When I play defense, I can help the team more to win more games.”

Ramírez started 17 games in the outfield for the Rays in 2022, plus 29 more at first base. He only started 13 games in the field last year: 11 in the outfield and two at first base. Meanwhile, he was in the lineup as the starting designated hitter 86 times last year.

Cash said Ramírez is going to see plenty of time in the outfield corners during Spring Training and admitted he probably pinned Ramírez into the DH spot more than intended, primarily because he was so effective in that role.

“That probably wasn't ideal, just not getting some more consistent reps. Is it constantly out there? To be determined,” Cash said. “But we can definitely do a good job this spring of getting him reps in the outfield where he can continue to improve his game out there."

Around the horn

• Second baseman Brandon Lowe remained sidelined due to an illness that’s kept a handful of people out of camp, but he could return for Thursday’s workout.

• Seven pitchers threw live batting practice on Wednesday: Shawn Armstrong, Manuel Rodríguez, Erasmo Ramírez, Mason Montgomery, Logan Workman, Zac Houston and Yoniel Curet.

Cash said Armstrong’s session went well and once again came away impressed with Rodríguez, who has a big fastball and slider with improved command. Curet, the hard-throwing offseason addition to the 40-man roster who isn’t expected to pitch in the Majors this year, also stood out.

• During their morning defensive drills, infielders worked on making tags in front of the bases without dropping a leg to block the bag. That will be a point of emphasis all spring, as MLB recently offered some guidance to umpires on an existing rule that targets obstruction.

Re-emphasizing Rule 6.00(h), MLB asked umpires to call obstruction if they determine a fielder has positioned himself to block the runner’s path before receiving the ball.

“If we're not blocking the bases, we think that's going to prevent injury and allow guys a little bit more freedom to take some chances,” Cash said. “We're going to practice, because we've got some guys that that's how they've been taught and how they're comfortable doing it.”