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Diaz aims to turn heads, cement everyday role

February 18, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When Yandy Díaz arrived at Rays camp on Sunday, he quickly established himself as the most muscular player inside the clubhouse. During Spring Training, his focus will be establishing himself as an everyday player."I feel happy since I'm going to have more opportunities here to showcase

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When Yandy Díaz arrived at Rays camp on Sunday, he quickly established himself as the most muscular player inside the clubhouse. During Spring Training, his focus will be establishing himself as an everyday player.
"I feel happy since I'm going to have more opportunities here to showcase my talent," Diaz said in Spanish. "I'm happy to be here and help the team in whatever way I can."
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Diaz, who was acquired from Cleveland in the trade that sent Jake Bauers to the Indians, is looking to finally get an opportunity to play every day at the big league level. Diaz bounced around between Triple-A and the Majors over the last couple of seasons, but the Rays expect him to be a big part of their club in 2019.
"It's more of an open lane for an opportunity to be part of the Major League club, and with that, that could be really liberating to the player," said general manager Erik Neander. "Our goal is to get to know him, let him be himself and we think the talent that he has will shine in a way that will make this whole thing go and help us win games."

The 27-year-old has spent most of his time at third base, but in order to get the most playing time this season, Diaz will look to prove that he can be a consistent first baseman during camp.
"Last year I played a good amount of first base and I felt comfortable," Diaz said. "This year, I'm going to focus more on my defense and play the entire time at first base."
In just 39 games with the Indians last season, Diaz finished with a .312/.375/.422 slash line. However, despite his 6-foot-2, 224-pound frame, Diaz has only hit one home run in his big league career.
"I'm not a player that hits a lot of home runs," Diaz said. "But with the quality, the swing and the power in the bat, I think I'm capable of hitting more home runs this year."

The Rays are high on Diaz -- enough to throw in an extra $5 million in the deal with the Indians -- even if his power numbers don't see a significant increase. Diaz, however, said he worked on his launch angle over the offseason, which he believes will result in more line drives and home runs.
With Bauers and C.J. Cron no longer on the roster, Diaz will compete with Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe for playing time at first base. The team's No. 13 prospect Nate Lowe, who's at big league camp as a non-roster invitee, will start the season at Triple-A Durham, but the expectation is that he will be with the Rays at some point this season.
"We're going to learn a lot about first base," said manager Kevin Cash. "We all talk about how much we care about our defense and securing the baseball. That's a big spot. The more information we can get on how these guys complement the rest of our infielders will be very beneficial throughout Spring Training."

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