PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When Tyler Glasnow heard the news that the Rays were signing Charlie Morton, he couldn't help but get even more excited for the 2019 season.Glasnow's first impression of Morton came a few years back, when the two were members of the Pirates organization. Glasnow, a promising
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When Tyler Glasnow heard the news that the Rays were signing Charlie Morton, he couldn't help but get even more excited for the 2019 season.
Glasnow's first impression of Morton came a few years back, when the two were members of the Pirates organization. Glasnow, a promising prospect at the time, remembers watching Morton pitch during Spring Training, and he was in awe of how dominant Morton's stuff was.
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But as Morton wrapped up his outing, all Glasnow could hear was Morton talking about how much he needed to improve.
"He was just throwing 95-98 [mph] and just dominating everyone," Glasnow recalled. "He came back into the dugout like, 'Man, that slider wasn't very sharp, and I have to work on that, work on this.' And the funniest thing with him is that I feel he's just never satisfied from a professional standpoint. It's good to see he never settles, especially a guy like that with elite stuff."
Morton, 35, was the team's biggest acquisition over the offseason, signing a two-year, $30 million deal in December. Adding Morton gave the Rays another top starting pitcher to join Blake Snell and Glasnow in the rotation, but it also gave Tampa Bay a big veteran presence in an otherwise very young clubhouse.
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"What we've gotten to know of him, he's a pretty special guy," said Rays 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."
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The Rays had 23 rookies make an appearance last season, which set the stage for what the front office accomplished in the offseason. Adding a veteran pitcher like Morton was one of the boxes the front office was looking to check off, but so was adding a veteran catcher like Mike Zunino, who can help the pitching staff improve on an impressive 2018 season.
While Zunino, who was acquired from the Mariners in November, is only 27 years old, he's entering his seventh season and is one of the game's best defensive catchers. According to Fangraphs, Zunino finished the '18 season with 12 Defensive Runs Saved, which led the Majors amongst catchers.
"[Zunino] came in on Friday and caught a bunch of guys, and the interaction that he had with the pitchers and with [pitching coach] Kyle Snyder was outstanding," Cash said. "We're going to get him up to speed on some stuff, but we're going to look to him to help us, and he's dealt with some young pitchers and some of the growing pains with that. I think some of his knowledge is only going to help us to get better."
While the Rays won't add any pressure in trying to make the postseason, the moves for Zunino and Morton were made with the hopes of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The veteran leadership should help the young players get through a long season and should help them deal with the outside expectations.
"The expectations, I think we'll control them from inside," Cash said. "But for being around these guys that didn't have a ton of experience, they certainly carried themselves really, really well in some pretty high level environments at the end of the year. I would expect them to learn from that, continue to grow, and put it to use."
*Juan Toribio * covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.