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Ramos slims down to ease pressure on knees

Odorizzi turns to pilates to help strengthen core after back problems in 2017
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Wilson Ramos has transformed his body from "The Buffalo" to, maybe, "The Baby Buffalo?"

The Rays' catcher played at 260 pounds in 2017 and is now at 245, which he believes will help the wear and tear on his surgically repaired knees.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Wilson Ramos has transformed his body from "The Buffalo" to, maybe, "The Baby Buffalo?"

The Rays' catcher played at 260 pounds in 2017 and is now at 245, which he believes will help the wear and tear on his surgically repaired knees.

"In this offseason, I was talking to my wife about my work," Ramos said. "I was concentrating on losing a little bit of weight, to see how it felt. I figured if I lost some weight, I'd feel more comfortable behind the plate, not putting as much pressure on my knee, protect myself from injury."

Ramos said he took his regimen a step further after talking to friends and his agent by adding controlled, prepared meals to his diet, and he got the results he hoped to get.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"It's exciting to come in here and be healthy," Ramos said. "I come in here and I'm squatting, running and jumping. I feel really well."

Ramos tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Sept. 26, 2016, with the Nationals, which prompted his second knee surgery. He spent the entire offseason recovering from the subsequent surgery which made repairs to the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus. The Rays signed him to a two-year, $12.5 million deal on Dec. 12, 2016, and he made his debut for the club on June 24.

Last spring, Ramos said the Rays were welcoming and he felt like he was a part of the team, even though he was isolated doing rehab work for most of Spring Training. This spring, he's ready to go full bore.

"Now I can feel more a part of the team," Ramos said. "I told the coaches I'm ready to play and show what I can do."

Pilates for Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi struggled with back injuries in 2017, which complicated his season. He continued to pitch through the pain but had to continuously make adjustments in his delivery which made it difficult to find consistency. So Odorizzi went into the offeason looking to strengthen his back, which he did by doing pilates.

"I'd heard a lot of good things about [pilates], just for the fact it helps strength and flexibility, everything kind of tied into one," Odorizzi said. "So I was doing that twice a week all winter. I think that really benefitted me. I feel like I have a lot better range of motion and I'm stronger in the core area, which is what I needed to do. ... My back's good now. I feel good. It's probably the best I've felt physically with addressing issues in the offseason, moving forward, so I'm glad I got to see the results."

Video: TB@BAL: Odorizzi fans nine in six frames

Odorizzi, in hindsight, if he could repeat 2017, would he have taken off for a prolonged period during the season to get his back healthy before pitching?

"Obviously, I would have been smarter now," Odorizzi said. "But I didn't know that at the time. My whole thought process going through that was that my arm felt fine. And when my arm feels fine, it's my job to pitch and try to do the best I can to put us in a good spot to win.

"I was stubborn to continue to do my job. ... I didn't want to let our rotation down and put us in a bad spot."

Odorizzi's efforts did not go unapprecitated.

"I think [what he did] speaks volumes about him," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "... I'm proud of Jake. He went out there and did it [for the team]. But it did affect him."

Bauers concerned following shooting
In the aftermath of Wednesday's Douglas High School shooting tragedy, Rays prospect Jake Bauers felt compelled to tweet the following Wednesday night:

Tweet from @JakeBauers11: How have we become so numb to these tragedies? Somethings gotta give, we need change NOW. Heavy heart for Parkland FL tonight.

"These things happen and people feel bad for one or two days, I don't want to say it's forgotten, but nothing happens," Bauers said on Thursday. "There's no change. I have no idea what needs to happen, in the way of gun control, mental health. I just want to see some kind of action. For me, thoughts and prayers are great, and I'm sure a lot of people appreciate them, but they don't bring 17 kids back."

Bauers said he was moved to tears when he first heard the news of the tragedy.

"I'm very fortunate I don't have any firsthand experience with this. It breaks my heart to see all these things happen. It almost seems like a vicious cycle where people feel bad for one or two days, then two weeks later, the same thing happens. And here we are, nothing's happening."

Screened off
Position players do not have their first mandatory workout until Monday, but plenty have already arrived to camp and could be found working on one of the back fields with an added dimension when they take batting practice: screens.

Screens are placed on the front of the infield clay running from third base to first. The idea is to put launch angle into the hitter's thoughts and encourage them to get the ball in the air.

"I think the biggest thing is there's a lot of information out there right now that is talking about creating that vertical angle that gives all hitters a better chance to have success," Cash said. "It's not to be confused with creating home run hitters or power hitters, but when you can get the ball at that trajectory, at that angle, coming off the bat with speed off the bat, it's generally going to create some success.

"We're not asking anybody to change anything. It's more let them visualize it. If some guys go out there and don't want to think about it, then so be it. There's really not much instruction. It's just a different look."

"I think it might be a visual for some people," Corey Dickerson said. "But nobody's trying to hit the ball 30 degrees, I don't think that's what players are trying to do. I think they're trying to drive the ball wherever the ball is pitched. And if you drive the ball, good things will happen."

Added Matt Duffy: "Sometimes giving yourself a visual can give certain guys an idea about a target to shoot for."

Up next
Rays pitchers and catchers will have their third official workout of the spring on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET on the back fields of the Charlotte Sports Park. Though it's just pitchers and catchers "officially," plenty of position players have already reported to camp. Workouts are open to the public.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Jake Odorizzi, Wilson Ramos