Rosario's work ethic on display as he figures out role with Rays

February 26th, 2024

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Shortly before newcomer made his defensive debut on Monday, the Rays’ shortstop took off his cap, bent down and etched a few words into the infield dirt.

It’s something he’s done countless times in the past; so many, in fact, it takes him a minute to recall the exact verses he takes onto the field with him every game. They’re words of protection, trust and fellowship, and as Rosario competes to find his role with Tampa Bay after signing a one-year deal on Feb. 23, they also represent a little routine that brings the kind of stability he hopes to find on the roster in 2024.

“I think [this opportunity is] going to be a beautiful thing,” Rosario said via interpreter Manny Navarro. “I have the ability to play multiple positions. It's something that I am comfortable with, and hopefully it's something that I can keep on doing.”

Rosario singled in the third inning and later scored on teammate ’s monster three-run homer, finishing the day 1-for-3 from the leadoff spot during the Rays’ 8-3 win over the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.

Tampa Bay will put about as much weight into stat lines -- Rosario is an established career .272 hitter -- as it will a Grapefruit League record. That being said, what he does in the field could force the Rays into some difficult decisions.

While shortstop is probably his most natural fit -- he’s got 752 career MLB games there compared to 36 at second base -- he’s also got the skill to man either corner outfield spot and said he’s happy to play wherever Tampa Bay needs him.

“Amed has already gotten in here and worked really, really hard for us,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He's going to work hard on his infield play, [and] he's going to work hard in the outfield. … I think he has a good understanding of what he needs to do to continue to improve his game at short, and I don't put anything past him, because he's such an athletic guy.”

Just one ball came to Rosario on Monday, a routine grounder that he scooped up and fired to first without incident. Cash said the plan in the coming days is to give Rosario a taste of the outfield. Catching on out there would definitely give the 28-year-old more chances to play, especially once shortstop Taylor Walls returns from right hip surgery.

Caminero, a shortstop and the No. 4 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline, is on the cusp of returning to the Majors after a September callup last season, so the infield situation is going to get very crowded soon enough. That’s not even taking into account guys like Curtis Mead, the Rays’ No. 3 prospect who went 1-for-2 and played third base vs. the O's; Jonathan Aranda, who played first base and whom Cash said “could really impact us”; and Richie Palacios, who started in left but also has experience at second.

By combining the old routines with the new, Rosario is confident he can make an impact in his time with Tampa Bay.

“I think if I just keep working, anything I can do to help the team," Rosario said. "I told Cash whenever he's ready, I'm here to help out the team however I can.”

No. 1 for No. 1
Caminero, the Rays’ top prospect, batted cleanup against the O’s and had little trouble with Baltimore’s pitching during his three at-bat afternoon. He drove a pitch to deep center field for a flyout during his first time up, then tattooed the fifth pitch he saw from Cionel Pérez over the wall in straightaway center in his second go-round.

While its exact distance wasn’t measured, the three-run blast easily cleared the fence that sits 400 feet from home, drawing a round of “oohs” from the crowd. Homers like that to build off last season’s .324/.384/.591 slash line between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery only serve to heighten speculation about when he’ll join the Rays to stay.

Could Caminero break camp with the team? He’s not sweating it either way.

“All I can control is my efforts and the hard work that I put in; everything else is in [God’s] hands,” he said. “My job is just to work hard every day and let's see what happens.”