PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Roster flexibility is important to the Rays. This explains why infielders Daniel Robertson, Ryan Schimpf, Brandon Snyder and Micah Johnson are all getting duty in the outfield this spring."We told those guys, and a couple of others, we were going to explore the versatility with them,"
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Roster flexibility is important to the Rays. This explains why infielders Daniel Robertson, Ryan Schimpf, Brandon Snyder and Micah Johnson are all getting duty in the outfield this spring.
"We told those guys, and a couple of others, we were going to explore the versatility with them," manager Kevin Cash said. "In theory, they're all on board with it. I know there's comfort; if you're an infielder, you want to play infield. But at this stage, they're probably saying, 'It's early in Spring Training, what can I do to help present myself to where I might be more versatile and potentially make the team?' We don't expect they're going to say no."
Rocco Baldelli, the Rays' outfield coach/field coordinator, allowed that the experiment "means something different for each guy."
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"We're trying to get them ready and confident," Baldelli said. "This allows us to have confidence in them when we ask them to go out there. This is the time of year when you find out who's capable of what, and you work on things.
"Some of the guys, you look to get them to a position where they have a regular role in the outfield. And some of the guys, you work with them to try and give them an added dimension, so if you have to put them out there, you can."
Baldelli noted that simulating a ball hit by a Major Leaguer can't be done.
"You may run into somebody in the Minor Leagues who hits the ball that way," Baldelli said. "But in the Major Leagues, there are whole lineups that hit the ball like that. It's just experience having the time in the outfield watching the ball come off the bat."
Cash conceded that "it's not going to work out for all of them."
"But it's worth exploring a little bit," Cash said. "I think there's more flexibility with Robbie, just because we're very confident about what he can do in the infield."
Baldelli, like Cash, has been impressed by Robertson, who showed above-average fielding abilities last season, and now looks even better in the field since trimming down from 215 pounds to 200.
"He's been very comfortable. He has confidence in his own abilities," said Baldelli. "He goes after balls well. Kind of reminds you of the way he does everything else on the field."
Robertson made it clear he's all in for any plans the Rays have for him.
"I told these guys I'll run through a brick wall for them to play wherever they need me to help this team win games day in and day out," Robertson said. "That being said, my mindset is still competing for a starting second-base job. If I get a chance to get in there every day, I have a chance to be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. That's still my mindset. Am I happy moving around? Absolutely. But I do feel comfortable out there."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.