Siri flashes typical power, but has bigger goals in '24

February 25th, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Last season, showed what kind of power he has. He offered a quick reminder four innings into the Rays’ first Spring Training game on Saturday afternoon.

Siri smashed Tampa Bay’s first homer of the spring out to right-center field off Daysbel Hernández in the fourth inning of the Rays’ 6-5 loss to the Braves at Charlotte Sports Park, picking up where he left off last season.

“It’s a nice, easy swing,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s just got such good extension and plate coverage.”

Siri said he was simply motivated to put the ball in play after striking out in his first at-bat against Braves ace Spencer Strider.

“I connected on that ball pretty well,” he said, with communications director Elvis Martinez translating, “and it went out.”

Siri’s power was on display quite often last season, as he went deep 25 times in 101 games. At the same time, he hit just .222 with a .267 on-base percentage. He struck out in 35.7% of his plate appearances -- the highest strikeout rate of anyone in baseball who made at least 350 trips to the plate -- and walked in only 5.5% of his plate appearances.

Since he was on base so infrequently, Siri, one of the fastest players in the Majors with an average sprint speed of 29.7 feet/second, according to Statcast, stole only 12 bases last season, sixth-most on the team. Siri wants to run more this year, which is why he knows the next step for him offensively has nothing to do with the homer he launched on Saturday or the 25 he hit a year ago.

“I think my main goal this season [is] I want to reach base more,” he said.

At the plate
• The first game of the spring is no time to make judgments, as players are typically just working out the kinks and getting back into rhythm. The Braves didn’t make it any easier on the Rays lineup by sending Strider and his strikeout stuff to the mound for Saturday’s opener.

Strider struck out four and walked Richie Palacios, but Jonathan Aranda tagged him for a well-struck double to right field in his first at-bat. Aranda added a hard single to right-center in the fourth.

“For me, that was the highlight of the day,” Cash said. “I really want to see him have a good camp. No better way to start than that.”

Top prospect Junior Caminero laced a double to right-center field in his second at-bat, and shortstop/center field prospect Greg Jones went deep to left in the seventh. Outfielder Jake Mangum, acquired from the Marlins during the offseason, homered, while non-rostered outfielder Ruben Cardenas went 2-for-2 with a double and two RBIs.

“All in all, got to be pleased with the day,” Cash said.

On the mound
• Starter Nathan Wiles gave up four runs on five hits, including a first-pitch homer by Michael Harris II, and lefty prospect Mason Montgomery gave up two runs on three hits. The Rays gave up no hits and just one walk after the fourth inning. Non-rostered right-hander Michael Gomez stood out on the pitching side, hitting one batter but striking out three in his lone inning of work.

“He looked really good,” Cash said. “You could tell there were [uncomfortable] swings up there, so it’ll be interesting to see how that continues to unfold.”

• The Rays likely won’t use any of their top starters in Grapefruit League play until the middle of next week, with Zach Eflin tentatively scheduled to pitch Wednesday’s game.

Starter Taj Bradley and reliever Shawn Armstrong faced a handful of the Rays’ top hitters during live batting practice Saturday morning. Cash came away particularly impressed by what he saw from Bradley.

“Taj looked really good,” he said. “[Pitching coach Kyle Snyder has] been pretty bullish on it, and I understand why now.”

Up next
The Rays will host the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park. Yandy Díaz, Josh Lowe, Harold Ramírez and Isaac Paredes are the returning regulars expected to be in the lineup.

Veteran right-hander Erasmo Ramírez, back in camp as a non-roster invitee, is scheduled to start for the Rays. Right-handers Logan Workman, Carlos Garcia and Manuel Rodríguez are also lined up to pitch.

First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. ET. Bally Sports Sun will kick off its spring broadcast schedule with a live telecast, which will also be available on MLB.TV, and the Rays Radio broadcast will air on WDAE 620 AM/95.3 FM.