Rays will experiment at leadoff spot

February 23rd, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays manager Kevin Cash will experiment with a few things during Spring Training, and that includes the leadoff spot in the lineup.

“We’re going to mix-and-match,” Cash said. “It’s early, but I don’t foresee us having a set leadoff hitter this year.”

With Kevin Kiermaier struggling in that spot last season and Mallex Smith now a member of the Mariners, the Rays will likely play the matchups heading into the season, unless someone on the roster proves to feel comfortable in that spot during Spring Training.

Cash said Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle and even Yandy Diaz will all get a look atop the lineup this spring. Robertson led off Friday against the Phillies, going 1-for-3, while Meadows is scheduled to be the tablesetter Saturday against the Twins and then again Sunday against the Yankees.

Aside from the leadoff spot, expect to see Diaz split time between third and first base during the spring. He’ll get a bulk of the time in third base while Matt Duffy recovers from a slight hamstring problem. Once Duffy returns to the lineup, Cash expects Diaz to get a lot of work at first base.

“However he wants to go about it,” Cash said on Diaz’s usage. “If he wants to get reps [in the back fields] here and we’ll try and do a good job and let him know the day before where he’s playing.”

Lowe is also expected to get playing time at first base this spring, as well as second base and the outfield. Because the club is familiar with Lowe in the outfield, it’s expected that he won’t play there until sometime next week.

Cash and Baldelli set to meet Saturday

Saturday’s game against the Twins will be the first time Cash and new Twins manager Rocco Baldelli face each other from opposite dugouts. Despite popular belief, Cash said there won’t be any pranking done when the teams meet in Ft. Myers.

“We were going back and forth last night through text,” Cash said. “He seems to be in a good spot. As we all know, Rocco is laid-back, so he’ll do great.”

In a recent scrum with the media, Baldelli referred to Cash as “little Tito,” referring to Indians manager Terry Francona.

“That hurts my feelings,” Cash said, jokingly.

Other camp notes

Blake Snell and Charlie Morton both threw live batting practice Saturday and appear closer to appearing in Grapefruit League games. It’s still unclear when the duo will play in Spring Training games, but their first live batting practice on Saturday was a step in the right direction. Both Snell and Morton threw about 25 pitches, with Michael Perez catching Snell and Mike Zunino catching Morton. Matt Duffy, Kean Wong, Avisail Garcia, Tommy Pham and Daniel Robertson were the hitters facing Snell and Morton.

● The usual laid-back Rays clubhouse had a new toy in it on Saturday. When reporters walked into the room, Snell and pitching prospect Brent Honeywell were engaged in a competitive game of corn hole in the middle of the clubhouse. There was no surprise that there was a lot of trash talk going on between the two pitchers. Towards the back of the clubhouse, Yonny Chirinos and Jose Alvarado joined in on the fun with a game of ping pong.

● It could change after Saturday’s game against the Twins, but Meadows is set to lead off against the Yankees on Sunday. Pham, Ji-Man Choi, Diaz, Kiermaier, Willy Adames, Zunino, Emilio Bonifacio and Guillermo Heredia are also in the team’s starting lineup. Tyler Glasnow will be the starting pitcher against New York.