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Zobrist echoes thoughts on Rays' chemistry, goals

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Ben Zobrist reported to the Rays' Spring Training clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon and saw a group of mostly familiar faces. He said it felt more like a bunch of friends or family coming back together after a vacation, not like the start of a new season.

But with that continuity, Zobrist said, comes a certain degree of urgency.

"We feel like we've already been through a lot together. I feel like things might get put together really quickly here in Spring Training with the guys that we've added over the course of the offseason. It feels like such a tight group," Zobrist said. "We're going to work to win it all. I don't think anybody's going to be satisfied trying to get to the playoffs or squeaking in like we did last year. It's going to be a lot more of a dedicated drive to win the World Series instead of just winning in general."

Like Rays manager Joe Maddon, Zobrist was comfortable publicly stating such a lofty goal for Tampa Bay this season. The 32-year-old infielder/outfielder said he enters every year with high expectations, tempering them with the understanding that some things are out of the team's control, and he believes it's realistic to expect big things out of the 2014 Rays.

"We know what we're looking at, what kind of club we have. We've dealt with pressure," Zobrist said. "I don't want to put undue pressure on guys, and I try not to do that on myself, but at the same time, we know what we're capable of. Because of that, we want to believe something corporately that is going to happen and kind of take the necessary steps to make it happen over the course of the season.

"We've got to take it day by day, but at the same time, when we look over the course of the season, at the start you're thinking at the highest. I like to think of the best possible scenario and deal with the challenges as they come."

On a personal level, Zobrist said he expects to play more second base this year, considering the crowded outfield mix already includes Desmond Jennings, David DeJesus, Wil Myers and Matt Joyce. Zobrist spent the offseason working on what the club's trainers told him to, and he focused on a few specific things he and hitting coach Derek Shelton discussed last season.

"I just feel healthy, feel strong. I feel like when I go out there and hit in the cage, I'm doing the things that I want to do. It's coming easy right now," Zobrist said. "I know it's not going to be that way when we start games, but as far as my work goes, it's not any sort of grind. It just feels like everything's falling into place the way it's supposed to at this time."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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