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Rays head to spring with new look, same expectations

Cash, Silverman optimistic as camp approaches

ST. PETERSBURG -- Spring Training is a week away for the Rays, as they will begin their 18th camp, and seventh in Charlotte County, on Feb. 23.

Kevin Cash will welcome 38 pitchers and catchers to Charlotte Sports Park to begin his reign as the manager of the Rays.

"I wish we were already down in Port Charlotte. ... A third of our camp is at The Trop every day working out," Cash said. "If the preparation and work ethic that this group here has shown since the first of the year is any indication of what's getting ready to take place, we will be just fine."

Pitchers and catchers will take the field next Monday morning at 9:30 ET. The first full-squad workout will take place on Feb. 28 after the camp expands to 62 players, including 22 non-roster invitees.

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs | Schedule

There will be many new faces. Matt Silverman, the new president of baseball operations, engineered seven trades involving a total of 30 players, added two Major League free agents, signed all eight arbitration-eligible players prior to the exchange deadline, hired a rookie Major League manager in Cash and brought on two Major League coaches.

Eleven players on the 40-man roster were not in the organization when the Rays opened Spring Training last year on Feb. 15, and eight have joined the organization since the end of the 2014 season. Thirty-two of the 40 players on the current roster made their Rays debut in 2012 or later.

In 2014, the Rays compiled Major League Baseball's best Spring Training record (16-7-4), and their Grapefruit League title was their third in the last seven seasons, following '08 and '10.

Since 2008, the Rays have the Majors' fourth-best record in the regular season and the fourth best record in Spring Training play. After becoming the Rays in 2008, the team has recorded at least 15 wins in six out of seven Spring Trainings.

New faces joining this year's team will include free-agent acquisitions in shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and right-hander Ernesto Frieri, along with players received via trades, including right-handers Jose Dominguez, Kevin Jepsen and Burch Smith; catcher/DH John Jaso; catcher Rene Rivera; and outfielder Steven Souza Jr.

Key players no longer with the team include catcher Jose Molina, shortstop Yunel Escobar, catcher Ryan Hanigan, outfielders Matt Joyce and Wil Myers, infielder Sean Rodriguez, infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist, left-hander Cesar Ramos, and right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Joel Peralta.

Despite the turnover, expectations remain high for the players who will wear Rays uniforms in 2015.

"We head into camp with optimism," Silverman said. "While we have new leadership and many new faces, the constants are the talent level and our players' conviction that we can excel."

Pitchers and catchers report:

Full squad reports:
Feb. 27

First Spring Training game:
At Port Charlotte vs. the Orioles on March. 5 at 1:05 p.m. ET

Opening Day:
At Tropicana Field vs. the Orioles on April 6 at 3:10 p.m. ET

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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