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Prospect Bauers maturing, seeing time in OF

MLB.com @wwchastain

TAMPA, Fla. -- Count Jake Bauers as one of the Rays' road warriors on Sunday afternoon in a 9-1 win over the Yankees in Grapefruit League play. Only Bauers wasn't at first base, he was in right field.

Rays manager Kevin Cash insisted that locale wasn't out of the norm for Bauers.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Count Jake Bauers as one of the Rays' road warriors on Sunday afternoon in a 9-1 win over the Yankees in Grapefruit League play. Only Bauers wasn't at first base, he was in right field.

Rays manager Kevin Cash insisted that locale wasn't out of the norm for Bauers.

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"He's pretty good at [the outfield]," Cash said. "It's a way for him to get at-bats. We talked to Jake. I personally view him as a first baseman. But to have that versatility, and if somebody went down -- our outfield is fairly set -- I would hate that we can't call upon or lean on Jake to get his bat in the lineup that way.

"He's going to play a ton of first base. I think he played [74] games [in the outfield] last year. We'd be not very smart to just shut that down, right and left."

Bauers did make an error in the first that turned Aaron Judge's one-out single into a double, but he had a positive response in the second with an opposite-field double. He finished 2-for-4 at the plate and played six innings in right.

Video: TB@NYY: Judge singles for first hit of the spring

Bauers, the Rays' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, opened eyes with his bat last spring before spending the season at Triple-A Durham, where he hit .263 with 13 home runs and 63 RBIs in 132 games.

Not only does Bauers have power, he has plate discipline. That's a unique -- and an endearing -- quality for a 22-year-old slugger, yet he wants to be more aggressive this season.

"A lot of times last year, I found myself behind in counts early because pitchers were throwing more strikes. I was taking pitches thinking I would get a better pitch, and they never came," Bauers said. "A lot of my approach was to left-center last year, and this year I want to stay right-center out front. If it's in the zone, I'm going to try and do some damage to it."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Bauers' knowledge of the strike zone has at times prompted disagreements with umpires. Rays first-base coach Ozzie Timmons, who was at Durham last season, said some of those disagreements prompted him to have a talk with Bauers.

"I said, 'Listen, I'm not going to tell you not to argue, but just be ready to hit a wide variety of pitches,'" Timmons said.

Bauers headed to Florida believing he had a chance to be the starting first baseman. However, his chances to make the team out of spring were diminished once the Rays traded for C.J. Cron. Entering the season, Cron and Brad Miller appear as though they will handle most of the first-base duties.

Video: Top Prospects: Jake Bauers, 1B, Rays

"I don't know about hard," Bauers said, when asked if he took Cron's acquisition that way. "But it definitely tests you in a way. My mindset coming into camp was I was here to make the team, make the Opening Day roster. Whether that happens or not, I have no control over that. But I'm maintaining that. After the trade, I told my dad, 'It doesn't matter who comes walking through that door. I'm still here to compete for a job, whether it's at first base or left field, or wherever. I'm here to win a job.'"

Whether or not Bauers claims a spot on the Major League roster out of Spring Training, he is maturing nicely.

"I think a full season at Triple-A really benefitted him," Cash said. "He came in very motivated to perform well, and he looks the same as far as I'm concerned. Maybe a little bit stronger."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Jake Bauers