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5 observations after Spring Training Week 1

@juanctoribio
February 16, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- While pitchers and catchers officially reported Wednesday, the majority of the Rays players arrived early and have been working out in Port Charlotte since Monday morning. Brandon Lowe, Ryan LaMarre, Austin Meadows and Joey Wendle reported Sunday, so the Rays are only waiting on Yandy Díaz

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- While pitchers and catchers officially reported Wednesday, the majority of the Rays players arrived early and have been working out in Port Charlotte since Monday morning.

Brandon Lowe, Ryan LaMarre, Austin Meadows and Joey Wendle reported Sunday, so the Rays are only waiting on Yandy Díaz , Randy Arozarena, Lucius Fox, Nate Lowe and Ji-Man Choi, who are all expected to report during Monday’s full-squad report date.

Because Tampa Bay has been on the field for a week now, let’s take a look at five early observations in camp.

Newcomers turning heads

José Martínez and Manuel Margot arrived early and have been working out in Port Charlotte for a week. In a short time, Martínez, who at 6-foot-6 is taller than most people think, has already displayed his ability to hit during batting practice.

“He likes to hit,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Whether he’s hitting off a tee, flips or batting practice, it’s just so loose and easy. … It looks like he just gets in the box and has fun.”

The next step for Martínez is to continue to develop at first base, a spot the Rays could use him throughout the season. He has worked with third-base coach Rodney Linares every day and that is expected to continue throughout the season.

“He’s a big, tall guy, and somehow we have to find a way to use that to his advantage on defense,” Cash said. “Watching [Martínez] in the batter’s box, he’s so athletic. We want that athleticism to show out when he’s playing first.”

Hunter Renfroe displayed some strong power during Sunday’s batting practice. Renfroe hit a pair of home runs during his session and said he’s looking forward to being 100 percent healthy this season.

Chirinos impressing

Yonny Chirinos, who has a good chance of being a regular starter in the Rays’ rotation this season, came into camp 15 pounds lighter, which has impressed everybody in the building. Chirinos’ weight loss has translated well to the mound and his two bullpens, including a 30-pitch session on Sunday, have caught the attention of everyone at camp.

“He looks awesome,” Cash said.

Prospects holding their own

While the focus will be on the Major League roster as the Rays look to contend for an American League East title, Tampa Bay also has a group of talented top prospects attending camp as non-roster invites. Among the group, Cash noted that left-hander Shane McClanahan, the team’s No. 9 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and right-hander Joe Ryan, the team’s No. 16 prospect, have stood out over the rest.

“They were both very impressive again [on Sunday],” Cash said. “McClanahan’s stuff is pretty undeniable. It’s really, really good. ... He really looks like he knows what he’s doing when he’s on the mound.”

Alvarado looking to bounce back

There’s no denying that, when right, José Alvarado has some of the best stuff in the American League. But after a down season in 2019, the goal this spring is for Alvarado to get back to a good spot physically and mentally, and so far, so good for Alvarado.

“I’m feeling good with all my pitches,” Alvarado said. “Just gotta keep working.”

Kiermaier testing new approach

Kevin Kiermaier came into spring after making subtle changes to his swing and body placement in the batter’s box, and the early reviews have been positive. While it all remains to be seen as Spring Training continues and the games roll around, Kiermaier has been consistently hitting to the opposite field during the early rounds of batting practice.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.