Veteran reliever Hunter Strickland is taking this whole “big league camp” thing literally.
Strickland, who’s in Spring Training with the Rays on a Minor League deal, is living this spring in a 28-foot bumper pull camper hooked up to his pickup truck in an RV park near Port Charlotte, Fla. It’s got “all the essentials,” the 32-year-old right-hander said: a chair, a bed, a propane grill and kids toys for when his wife and family arrive.
Strickland said he and his wife lived in a camper throughout the 2016 season, when he put together a 3.10 ERA in 61 innings over 72 appearances with the Giants, and enjoyed it.
“Pretty simple lifestyle,” he said, smiling. “No complaints on my end.”
A veteran of seven Major League seasons with the Giants, Mariners, Nationals and Mets, Strickland also had nothing but good things to say about his decision to sign with the Rays and the feedback he received about the organization. He spoke to people who have played for Tampa Bay, including former San Francisco teammate Matt Duffy, before signing a non-roster deal with an eye on cracking the club’s bullpen.
“Super relaxed. A lot of fun,” Strickland said. “Obviously it's only a couple days in, but you just kind of go out there and do your thing and compete and have fun. That's really the name of the game here.
“Obviously, the track record from top to bottom here speaks for itself. … Ultimately, just wanted to go to a place where you get that opportunity to help the team win.”
Manager Kevin Cash said the Rays were happy to land Strickland, having previously considered acquiring him multiple times and “heavily” discussing the possibility a few years ago when he was with the Giants. Over five years in San Francisco, the righty compiled a 2.91 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 19 saves and 211 strikeouts in 226 innings.
Strickland gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings over four appearances with the Mets last season, but he believes he benefitted from the work he put in at their alternate training site and while pitching this winter for Toros del Este in the Dominican Republic.
“I think that I got a lot of quality work done there,” he said. “Helped me tremendously as far as just revamping some pitches, just getting into my delivery a little bit more efficient and competing.”
Around the horn
• Saturday was a relatively light day of activity for the Rays’ pitchers and catchers. Pitching coach Kyle Snyder and bullpen coach Stan Boroski addressed the group -- all outside and spaced out -- to review topics like the organization’s pitching messages, controlling the running game and the pitcher-catcher relationship.
• Cash said he had no update on the COVID-19 testing “intake issues” he referenced on Friday, which he took to be a good sign. Position players went through the screening process on Friday, with results not likely to arrive until late Saturday night. Full-squad workouts begin Tuesday.
• Cash said Snyder was “raving” on Friday about left-hander Shane McClanahan’s recent bullpen session, impressed by his fastball velocity and breaking ball. Cash reported that bullpen catcher Misha Dworken, who was behind the plate for McClanahan, said, “That’s as good of a bullpen that I’ve caught.”
• Reliever Nick Anderson said he spent “a good chunk of the offseason” in St. Petersburg instead of his native Minnesota, working out at a new facility to enhance his mobility and strength. After pitching deep into October with a heavy postseason workload, Anderson said he took the same amount of time off that he’d rest during a normal offseason. So he’s a little behind his typical spring schedule, but he’s already thrown one bullpen with another scheduled for the coming days.
“All good,” Anderson said.