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Duffy healthy, ready to handle hot corner

Franchise cornerstone Longoria's departure leaves void at third base
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Matt Duffy is healthy and is slated to be the Rays' third baseman this season.

"That's what they've communicated to me, a few weeks ago," Duffy said.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Matt Duffy is healthy and is slated to be the Rays' third baseman this season.

"That's what they've communicated to me, a few weeks ago," Duffy said.

Duffy began the 2017 season on the disabled list while recovering from heel surgery, and he continued to have setbacks. Eventually, his heel required a second surgery, and he missed the entire 2017 season.

Duffy said his offseason goal was to be "100 percent confident about putting as much force into the ground as possible, and not worrying about it. And we got there."

Video: How Kiermaier, Span and Duffy fit into Rays' lineup

"I can put as much force into the ground as I possibly can, and I don't have any reservations or hesitation at all," Duffy said. "I've been working on everything from getting out of the box, to stealing. Everything. I feel outstanding."

Duffy added that he no longer carries any anxiety about his recovery.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Rays acquired Duffy in the four-player trade that sent Matt Moore to the Giants on Aug. 1, 2016. He took over at shortstop and did not make an error in 18 games (55 chances and 153 innings). He hit .276 with a home run and seven RBIs before having his season-ending surgery.

Duffy smiled when asked what he would say to Rays fans who expected him to play last year, and it never happeend.

"If they roll their eyes when they hear my name, I don't blame them, I guess," Duffy said. "I'd do the same thing. ... 'What's going to be said now? Feels good. He's been saying that for over a year.' You hate telling people you don't feel good. I can honestly say I feel good. I was so pumped coming out here. I can't say anything else."

Group Text

Chris Archer created an offseason group text among some of the Rays' starting pitchers.

"It was playful," said Archer, who explained that amid the jokes was a "hidden truth" that the starting pitching needs to drive the team, and that the group text allowed them to keep the line of communication open. He noted that some of the pitchers weren't on the text, not because they were excluded, but simply because he didn't have their numbers.

"I think we all knew everybody already," right-hander Jake Faria said. "But it helped everybody get a little closer going to camp and already having that rapport we built in the offseason. And it was funny. It was a funny group. We just gave each other a bunch of crap. It was fun."

Lean and Mean

Daniel Robertson reported to camp lighter than last season. The infield hopeful said he played at 215 pounds during his rookie season with the Rays in 2017. He's now fluctuating between 200 and 205 pounds. "I feel great," Robertson said.

Robertson is the favorite to play second base for the Rays this season, but he can play all of the infield positions.

Worth Noting:

• After some debate among clubhouse staff, the determination was made that Robertson will occupy the locker that belonged to Evan Longoria. Longoria, who was traded to the Giants in December, had filled the same locker since the Rays first moved to Charlotte Sports Park in the spring of 2009.

Kevin Kiermaier ranked seventh on MLB Network's annual Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now program this past Saturday, marking the final installment of the 10-part series. Kiermaier, who ranked ninth on last year's countdown, finished one spot ahead of the Dodgers' Chris Taylor and one spot behind the Brewers' Christian Yelich.

Video: Kevin Kiermaier is the No. 7 center fielder right now

Jake Odorizzi's arbitration hearing took place on Monday. He asked for a $6.3 million contract for the 2018 season while the team offered $6.050 million. The results of that hearing will become known on Tuesday.

• Pitchers and catchers will take their physicals on Tuesday morning in advance of Wednesday's first workout for them. That workout will begin at 10:30 a.m ET. All workouts are open to the public.

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

Tampa Bay Rays