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Notes: Choi switches sides, 2nd catcher spot

@juanctoribio
July 11, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- It doesn’t take much for Ji-Man Choi to find a way to make things interesting and entertaining. Choi, who experimented with switch-hitting earlier in his Minor League career with the Mariners, usually takes a pair of swings from the right side during batting practice before shifting over

ST. PETERSBURG -- It doesn’t take much for Ji-Man Choi to find a way to make things interesting and entertaining.

Choi, who experimented with switch-hitting earlier in his Minor League career with the Mariners, usually takes a pair of swings from the right side during batting practice before shifting over to the left side. But on Saturday, with the Rays having four left-handed pitchers during the sim game, Choi stepped up to the plate and swung from the right side.

“By his third at-bat today, I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ And he said that he was having fun,” said Rays hitting coach Chad Mottola. “So I was like OK, I’m all for it. I don’t think we’re expecting anything out of it.”

While Choi and Rays manager Kevin Cash had a brief conversation around the idea of Choi hitting right-handed during the season, Cash noted that seeing it happen in the regular season is highly unlikely, even against a tough left-handed pitcher.

“I don’t really foresee that coming in any way,” Cash said. “I just think where he’s at in his career from a confidence standpoint, he’s willing to mess around with it. We got an opportunity in this setting to work through some timing, but of course, he goes out there and maybe hits the hardest-hit ball of the day.”

Choi also said that the reason behind him hitting right-handed on Saturday was to give the left-handed pitchers a look at another righty. However, he kept the door open by hitting a ringing double off Ryan Sherriff during the sim game.

It might’ve surprised a lot of people, but definitely not Choi.

“I’m the best hitter on the team, so it’s not surprising,” Choi said with a laugh. “Just kidding.”

Rays happy with catcher group
Mike Zunino will be one of the two catchers on the Opening Day roster, but between Michael Perez, Kevan Smith and Chris Herrmann, the Rays have an open competition for the second spot.

So far during Summer Camp, Perez has looked more comfortable at the plate with a home run off Charlie Morton during Wednesday’s sim game. Smith also has a home run, launching one on Thursday against Colin Poche. While Perez has the leg up in the competition because he’s on the 40-man roster and is more familiar with the pitching staff, Smith and Herrmann continue to be in the conversation.

“They’re doing more than helping out. They’re competing,” Cash said. “We’re going to see a lot of them. They’ll continue to go on and off with Mikey and [Zunino], and that’s our group. That’s where we’re going to make some decisions from. … They’re competing for jobs and opportunities.”

Three rotation options for depth on the mound

Saturday’s sim game
The Rays started each inning with a runner on second on Saturday, but it was intended to give pitchers and hitters a different look and not to replicate the new extra-innings rule.

Sean Gilmartin, D.J. Snelten, Josh Fleming and Sherriff were the four pitchers on Saturday, all coming from the camp in Port Charlotte, Fla. Fleming started for one team, throwing 40 pitches (23 for strikes). Gilmartin started for the other team, allowing one hit during his lone inning of work.

Joey Wendle and Choi had the loudest hits, each recording a double.

Taking attendance
Saturday was another sim game day at the Trop, so not every position player was seen on the field. Tyler Glasnow, Randy Arozarena, Yonny Chirinos and José Martínez have still not been spotted during workouts.

Austin Meadows attended Friday's workout, but he has not been on the field since. Brendan McKay participated in the first couple of workouts, but he has not been seen on the field in the last five days. Diego Castillo has also not been seen the last four days. Due to the health protocols, the Rays won't disclose which players have attended each workout.

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