5 Rays who have stood out in Summer Camp

July 20th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- With just four days left until they host the Blue Jays on Opening Day, the Rays will finish their Summer Camp preparation with a pair of intrasquad games.

Over the past two weeks, the Rays have gone through nearly a dozen simulated games and a handful of live batting practices on the field. Despite not having any exhibition games, manager Kevin Cash has been encouraged with what he's seen from the team and believes his squad will be ready to go on Opening Day.

Here are five players that have stood out during Summer Camp:

Though Díaz served as the hero in the American League Wild Card Game after launching two home runs, the Rays' third baseman was not 100 percent as he was still recovering from a left foot fracture that had appeared to end his season.

Díaz, who hit a career-high 14 home runs last year before the injury, is fully healthy heading into this season and has been a bright spot during Summer Camp. Díaz has had success against seemingly every pitcher in the Rays' pitching staff, including a 2-for-3 day against Charlie Morton early into camp. Díaz has also worked with third-base coach Rodney Linares and looks to be much improved on defense.

"He's pretty incredible," Cash said. "He just gets out of bed and hits."

Castillo missed a couple of days in Summer Camp due to a personal matter, but that didn't affect him at all. Castillo has pitched in two simulated games and has yet to give up a hit. But perhaps the most impressive thing is that he has thrown 19 of his 24 pitches for strikes.

The right-hander attended all the voluntary workouts before the restart and looks to be in midseason form. His four-seam fastball is close to triple digits and Rays hitters haven't been a match for his wipeout slider. Nick Anderson is the favorite to handle most of the save opportunities for Tampa Bay, but Castillo will certainly be another option.

3. Pete Fairbanks
With Emilio Pagán no longer on the roster, Tampa Bay has a void to fill in the bullpen. Fairbanks has the chance to do just that. Fairbanks was acquired by the Rays last season from the Rangers in exchange for Nick Solak, and his ability to reach triple digits with the four-seamer was a big reason why.

Over the past two weeks, the 6-foot-6 righty has shown fastball command and continued improvement on a slider that held opposing hitters to a .183 batting average last season. He projects to be a key piece in the middle innings.

"He's not very fun to face, whether you're a righty or a lefty," said Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. "To have that size that he does and to be pumping 98-100 [mph] with a nasty slider, I'm definitely glad to have him on our team. I would much rather play center field behind him than face him."

Wendle was a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year Award candidate in 2018, but injuries derailed his season in '19. Just like Díaz, Wendle is healthy as he enters this season and is hoping to have a bounce-back season. So far during Summer Camp, Wendle has looked impressive on the field and at the plate, giving the Rays yet another versatile option in the infield.

Perez came into Summer Camp competing for the second catcher spot with Chris Herrmann, who has already opted for free agency, and Kevan Smith, who is still competing. But with a couple of days left to make a decision, Perez appears to be the favorite to win the competition after a strong performance.

The 27-year-old started off Summer Camp by hitting a homer off Morton, and the quality at-bats have continued after that. Overall stats haven't been kept during Summer Camp, but Perez has been one of the toughest outs over the past couple of weeks. His batting practice sessions have also been impressive.

"He's a guy that is starting to come into his own," Cash said. "He seems pretty motivated and kind of hungry to make the most of the opportunity that is presented."