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4 things we learned from Rays’ spring presser

@juanctoribio
February 12, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Wednesday’s pitchers and catchers report day was well attended by the Rays, as 52 of the 65 players in camp were in attendance at Charlotte Sports Park. While the players underwent various testing and went through fancy photoshoots for the upcoming season, Tampa Bay manager Kevin

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Wednesday’s pitchers and catchers report day was well attended by the Rays, as 52 of the 65 players in camp were in attendance at Charlotte Sports Park.

While the players underwent various testing and went through fancy photoshoots for the upcoming season, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash and general manager Erik Neander held their annual Spring Training press conference on Wednesday.

Let’s take a look at four things we learned from Wednesday’s opening press conference.

1. Traditional rotation?
After using the opener strategy the last couple of seasons, there’s a chance that the Rays will have a more traditional pitching rotation in 2020. Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton will be the top three starters in the rotation, but Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough come into camp with an opportunity to solidify their roles as starters.

Last season, Yarbrough was a big part of the Rays’ success, especially once Snell, Glasnow and Chirinos all went down with injuries. Chirinos has found success, posting a 3.71 ERA in his first two seasons in the Majors, and came into Spring Training down 15 pounds. Tampa Bay, however, didn’t commit to a five-man rotation on Wednesday.

“We’re going to do a lot of talking and a lot of listening,” Cash said. “I think we all recognize Yonny and Yarbrough have put themselves in a really good spot. I personally don’t think we’ll have anything to announce until a lot of things unfold towards the end of March, but everything is on the table that we’re going to discuss over the next couple of weeks.”

2. Closer status
While the Rays never officially made Emilio Pagán the closer, he established himself as Cash’s go-to reliever in the ninth inning. Despite starting the season in Triple-A Durham, Pagán led the club with 20 saves in 2019. Now that Pagán has been dealt to the Padres, Tampa Bay will have to sort out its options in the back end of the bullpen.

Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, Colin Poche and José Alvarado could all be options in the ninth inning, but the Rays aren’t ready, and aren’t expected, to name a set closer in 2020.

“We feel really good about our bullpen, our bullpen depth,” Cash said. “Those guys were pretty special last year and they worked so well together as a unit. They were selfless. Emilio was a huge part of that and maybe not a more selfless player on our team last year, but we like the guys we have coming into camp.”

3. Where does Margot fit in?
Manuel Margot admitted that he was surprised when he was dealt to the Rays, but also mentioned that he was excited for a fresh start. Margot has played center field throughout his career but with Kevin Kiermaier also on the roster, the expectation is that Margot will see more action in left and right field.

“He’s a very Rays player,” Cash said. “Plays good defense and does special things on the bases. We’re spoiled here with [Kiermaier] and what he does defensively, but to be able to add another defensive center field … it just makes us special in the outfield.”

4. Where’s Wander?
Wander Franco, the game’s No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, has been working out in Port Charlotte for over a month, but Neander said the club will continue to “do right” by Franco and don’t know what level he’ll start the season or if he’ll participate in Spring Training games. A source told MLB.com that there is growing optimism that the 18-year-old can start the season at Double-A Montgomery, continuing his rapid climb through the Minors.

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