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Mark these key Rays dates for 2020

@juanctoribio
December 30, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays had a successful 2019 season, making the postseason for the first time since 2013 and pushing the Astros to the brink in a five-game American League Division Series. But after experiencing the postseason with a young core, the expectations will be even higher for Tampa

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays had a successful 2019 season, making the postseason for the first time since 2013 and pushing the Astros to the brink in a five-game American League Division Series.

But after experiencing the postseason with a young core, the expectations will be even higher for Tampa Bay heading into 2020. The Rays and general manager Erik Neander have less than two months to make transactions before the club takes the field for Spring Training.

Let’s take a look at some key dates in 2020, where the team stands and what moves it could make as it continues to try and upgrade the roster.

When is Rays Fan Fest?
The Rays announced that Fan Fest will be held on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Tropicana Field. Fan Fest is free; however, all attendees 18 years and older must individually obtain an admission ticket to attend. Children 17 and under do not need a ticket. An email notification will be sent out when tickets are available to claim.

When do pitchers and catchers report?
The first workout for pitchers and catchers is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13, which means the groups will have to be in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Feb. 12.

When is the first full-squad workout?
Baseball season will officially get started once the Rays complete their first full-squad workout on Monday, Feb. 17.

What about the first Spring Training game?
The first Grapefruit game for the Rays is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 22, against the Red Sox in Fort Myers. Tampa Bay's first home game at Charlotte Sports Park will be on Sunday, Feb. 23, against the Yankees. One cool part of the Rays’ Spring Training schedule is that the club travels to FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches for the first time since the stadium opened in 2017 to play the Nationals.

Rays' Spring Training schedule

All right, when’s Opening Day?
Now we’re talking. The Rays open the season at Tropicana Field on March 26 against the Pirates. It’ll be the first time that Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows play their former team, while Chris Archer, who played parts of seven seasons with Tampa Bay, makes his return to St. Petersburg.

When’s the first road trip?
After opening the season with a six-game homestand against the Pirates and Yankees, the Rays have a 10-game road trip that begins in Arlington, continues in Boston and ends in Cleveland. The trip begins on Friday, April 3, and ends Sunday, April 12.

Will the Rays enter the 2020 season with a five-man rotation?
The Rays introduced the opener to the Majors, but it appears that the club is leaning toward having five traditional starters next season. The purpose behind the opener strategy was to help Tampa Bay’s young pitchers establish themselves at the Major League level. Now that they have, the organization could choose to be a little more traditional. Charlie Morton, Glasnow, Blake Snell, Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough would be the projected unit. If that’s the case, the Rays will enter the 2020 season with one of the deepest rotations in the American League.

Who will be the team’s closer?
While the Rays are open to being a bit more traditional with a five-man rotation, they’ll likely continue with their unorthodox plan of not naming a set closer. Emilio Pagán led the club with 20 saves last season despite starting the season with Triple-A Durham. However, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash likes the flexibility of going with his best relievers in high-leverage situations, regardless of the inning. Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and Colin Poche could see an uptick in save opportunities next season, and if José Alvarado returns to form in 2020, he could be another option for Cash out of the bullpen.

What’s the Rays’ projected Opening Day lineup?
The disclaimer here is that things could change over the next couple of weeks. But as of right now, the Rays could go into the regular season with a lineup that features (in no particular order) Meadows, Yandy Díaz, Ji-Man Choi, Hunter Renfroe, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames, Mike Zunino and Kevin Kiermaier.

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