CLEARWATER, Fla. -- For Rays third baseman Christian Arroyo, almost every ballpark on the Grapefruit League circuit feels like a home game.The Tampa native grew up around the Spring Training parks in the bay area. On Saturday, the 22-year-old got the start at third base for the Rays' game against
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- For Rays third baseman Christian Arroyo, almost every ballpark on the Grapefruit League circuit feels like a home game.
The Tampa native grew up around the Spring Training parks in the bay area. On Saturday, the 22-year-old got the start at third base for the Rays' game against the Phillies in Clearwater, just a short drive south of where he grew up in Brooksville.
The Giants' first-round Draft pick (25th overall) out of Hernando High School in 2013, Arroyo was acquired in the blockbuster deal that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco. The Rays' No. 6 overall prospect and the No. 5 third-base prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, was already in town when the news broke.
"When I found out I got traded, it was an easy transition for me," Arroyo said.
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Despite going 0-for-2 in Saturday's 5-3 win over the Phillies, Arroyo is batting .318 (7-for-22) for the Rays this spring while seeing time at third, short and second.
"He looks like a baseball player," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He like to be out there. He likes to play. He's got enough fire in him, even in Spring Training, where's he's competing."
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Hopefully, having all the comforts of home will help Arroyo make the next step in his development. He had a rough big league debut last season, batting .192 with three home runs in 34 games before a pitch broke his left wrist in July, which ultimately resulted in surgery. Prior to his debut, Arroyo advanced quickly through the Minors, including batting .396 with a 1.065 OPS last season at Triple-A. In five Minor League seasons, Arroyo has hit .300/.345/.434 with 106 doubles, 11 triples, 24 home runs and 208 RBIs.
Just being in the same time zone has made it easier for Arroyo to communicate with his friends and family. He has also had familiar faces at most of his Spring Training stops, from Pinellas to Port Charlotte. Being close to home also means hanging out with old friends on the weekend to go fishing and play video games.
"Thirty minutes from here, we've got some of the best fishing in the country," the avid angler said.
Being near home can have drawbacks, though. Outfielder Denard Span knows the feeling. As a fellow Tampa native, Span understands that -- while it's nice to be surrounded by familiarity -- there's a danger in trying too hard to be a hometown hero.
"Being home, no matter how much you want to pretend you don't put pressure on yourself, when you are playing in front of family and friends, I think it's natural to put a little more pressure on yourself," Span said. "But you can reverse that card when you know you are playing in front of people that will love you unconditionally."
As a veteran that has been in the league for over a decade, Span, who joined the Rays as part of the Longoria deal, prefers having that support system at this stage in his career.
"I think it's perfect for me," Span said. "I've played in front of big crowds, hostile crowds, but now I get to play in front of my wife and son. I couldn't write a better situation."
There can be other types of pressure as well. Although Arroyo was traded for Longoria -- and will eventually fill his position on the field -- he is trying to avoid the pressure of being compared to the beloved former Rays third baseman.
"Longo was one of my favorite players growing up. For me, I don't really look at it as trying to fill those shoes," Arroyo said. "I'm my own player and I'm not going to try and be Evan Longoria, because he is who he is -- a great player that has done some great things for the organization and this area.
"I can't think about it. I can only be the player that I'm supposed to be."
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.