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Stanek could add major heat to bullpen

Flamethrowing reliever continues to work toward spot on roster
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Nobody knows what the Rays' bullpen will look like at this juncture of Spring Training, but there's a good bet that Ryne Stanek will be a part of the final group.

The hard-throwing right-hander appeared in 21 games over three stints with the Rays in 2017, his first Major League action. He had a 3.52 ERA through his first 10 appearances, and a 7.30 ERA over his final 11 appearances of the season. In between, he went 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA and eight saves in 37 games for Triple-A Durham.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Nobody knows what the Rays' bullpen will look like at this juncture of Spring Training, but there's a good bet that Ryne Stanek will be a part of the final group.

The hard-throwing right-hander appeared in 21 games over three stints with the Rays in 2017, his first Major League action. He had a 3.52 ERA through his first 10 appearances, and a 7.30 ERA over his final 11 appearances of the season. In between, he went 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA and eight saves in 37 games for Triple-A Durham.

The right-hander's fastball occasionally registers at triple digits, which is reflected by his 60 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings for the Bulls, and 29 strikeouts in 20 innings for the Rays. However, for Stanek to be most effective, he'll need to have better control. And he knows that.

"I just think it comes down to refining my craft," Stanek said. "I worked really hard during the offseason to be ready to come into camp and do just that. I mean, it's definitely work, repetition. Getting the ability to more easily repeat your delivery and stay within yourself. And do the little things that will keep you consistent throughout the season."

Rays manager Kevin Cash believes Stanek has made strides.

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"He looks good, and I say that in a good way," Cash said. "He's tried to simplify the delivery a little bit. Anytime you've got a guy who's 6-foot-4, and he's got knees and elbows going everywhere, and he throws 100 mph, that's always a challenge to get him to repeat his delivery. Make a consistent delivery as much as possible.

"I know he's worked really hard at that. It looks from his bullpen, he's been in the zone much more. If we can get him in the zone, his stuff is going to do the rest of the work."

Paramount to his success will also be the effectiveness of his secondary pitch, which acts as a splitter with its downward action.

"I've definitely thrown it quite a bit," Stanek said. "It feels good. Last year was my first year throwing it. It definitely feels head-and-shoulders different than it did throwing it this time last year.

"I think it made a lot of good strides last year. I was able to use it pretty effectively. Hopefully it continues on that trend."

First workout 
The Rays conducted their first workout for pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, and Cash called it a "good day."

"Nice to see half the guys get off the mound, for sure," Cash said. "Some of the guys you hear about during the season, some of the young guys. [Yonny] Chirinos really stood out today, simply because he had such a good year, and we never saw him, other than on video. He's a big dude. Definitely looks the part. That was exciting."

Cash said that one of the goals of the staff is to conduct effective, but more efficient, workouts.

"I liked the way [coaches Matt Quatraro and Rocco [Baldelli] set everything up," Cash said. "I thought it was good intensity. It's a challenge for those guys, planning a Spring Training. I've learned over the last couple of years to not get dull. And we're going to do everything we can -- that's not saying it won't -- just to somehow create a little atmosphere, a little energy, and I think they did that."

While Cash will wait to deliver his remarks about the coming season until Monday's first full-squad workout, he did have a message on Wednesday.

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"We'd really like for us all to focus on the pitcher-catcher interaction," Cash said. "We can get better in that. We don't plan to be on the field a long time. But when we are, let's ramp up the intensity a little bit."

Cash confessed that with all the new faces in camp, it's a little tough to know everyone.

"We went through all of our booklets yesterday, meetings and stuff like that," Cash said. "There are a lot of new faces, that's for sure. But we'll get to know them pretty quick. We're going to start some brief five-minute conversations, maybe this afternoon."

Say it ain't so, Russ
Steven Souza Jr. is a devout Seattle Seahawks fan, so he would rather have seen Russell Wilson wearing the Rays' colors this spring rather than the Yankees' pinstripes.

"We've crossed paths," said Souza, who said he knows the Seahawks' quarterback a little bit. "I go to Seahawks games and Seahawks practices. We played against each other when we were young. He was in Asheville. He was always very kind to me.

"He loves baseball. That's all he talks about. So I was going to ask our front office [about getting Wilson on board as a Ray], and I just postponed it. Then I see that he's with the Yankees. So I tweeted him with a disappointed emoji and I said, 'Say it ain't so Russ.'"

Up next
Rays pitchers and catchers will have their second official workout of the spring on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET on the back fields of the Charlotte Sports complex.

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

Tampa Bay Rays, Steven Souza Jr., Ryne Stanek