PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- After a pair of seasons -- and a World Series title -- with the Astros, Rays pitcher Charlie Morton is confident that his new team has what in takes to make a postseason run in 2019.
"The talent in here is great," Morton said Tuesday. "The team is only going to get better with experience and maturity, so I'm really excited for that challenge."
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Morton, who signed a two-year, $30 million deal with the Rays in December, isn't looking to make any big speeches to the team, but the experience he brings will be valuable to a young club that won 90 games in 2018.
"The last thing we want to do is put any added pressure on Charlie," said manager Kevin Cash. "I think Charlie is going to be so valuable, just with his baseball life experience. He's dealt with injuries, he's dealt with not performing well, he's dealt with finishing out World Series games, so to be able to put that mindset -- and on top of that, he's a really good pitcher to put in our rotation -- is only going to be helpful."
In 30 starts last season, Morton finished with a 15-3 record and a 3.13 ERA and was named an All-Star for the first time in his career. He'll be joining a rotation that features reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and the talented young Tyler Glasnow. It's a rotation, despite just have three "traditional" starters, that can compete with the best in baseball.
From afar, Morton was impressed with what he saw the Rays accomplish last season, which played a factor in his free-agent decision. However, he does realize the challenges that come with playing in the AL East, but Morton believes that his new teammates should put in perspective what they accomplished last season.
"For this team to have won 90 games last year, you shouldn't have to convince people that this team is good. Now it's just about being better than the Yankees and Red Sox," Morton said. "I'm really excited for the opportunity to play against those teams."
While the Rays have plenty of pitching options, Cash made it clear that the team fully intends to go with the opener strategy in 2019.
"We're going to have very similar plans as to what we had last year," Cash said. "I think right now with health, we have those three starters, in no specific order, but Blake, Charlie, Tyler, and then we'll mix and match some versatile bullpen days."
Who's on first?
The Rays will have a versatile group in 2019, which allows them to get creative with their lineup most days. But there's still a question mark at first base after the team traded away Jake Bauers in the offseason.
• Projecting the Rays' Opening Day roster
Cash named newly acquired Yandy Díaz, Ji-Man Choi, Brandon Lowe and prospect Nate Lowe as guys that will get looks at first base during camp.
"We're going to learn a lot about first base," Cash said. "We all talk how much we care about our defense and securing the baseball, that's a big spot. The more information we can get on how these guys can complement the rest of our infielders will be very beneficial throughout Spring Training."
• Around the Horn: Looking at the Rays' options at first
Sergio Romo led the Rays with 25 saves last season, but even with his departure as a free agent, the club has no rush to name a closer -- if they name one at all.
"There's no urgency," Cash said. "We've had this conversation many times over many years and I personally like the flexibility. You can win games in the sixth, seventh and eighth inning, so why wait? We've got a bunch of guys that will find their way into the ninth inning and have success."
Major League Baseball has rescinded the three-game suspension on Rays pitcher Andrew Kittredge. The suspension came when Kittredge threw a pitch near the head of Yankees catcher Austin Romine in a game on Sept. 27 last season.