Day Four Spring Training – Notes and Interviews

Updated 1:24 pm. – Day four of Spring Training included the arrival of Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings and James Loney in camp.  All told, just six players have yet to report, including Juan Carlos Oviedo and Juan Sandoval, who are still held up by visa issues.  Other position players yet to report include Wilson Betemit, Yunel Escobar, Logan Forsythe, and Ben Zobrist.  The first full workout is on Thursday.

Longoria was extensive in his praise of Andrew Friedman and the front office for what they did this off-season.  He also addressed the “Eat Last” idea that Joe Maddon discussed at the opening of camp.  Here are his full comments:

Longoria hit .269 with 32 HR 88 RBI, playing a career best 160 games last year.

Loney reiterated how happy he was to be back.   The first baseman, a gold glove finalist last year in the AL, signed a three-year 21-million dollar deal in the off-season to return:

Loney hit .299 last with a .778 OPS, driving in 75 runs.   His best years in the RBI department came in 2008 and 2009, driving in 90 each season.

Jennings looked significantly stronger than he did at this point last season, having put on at least 10 pounds.  Jennings discussed his excitement for the upcoming year:

As you’ll hear from Joe Maddon, while he’d like to see Jennings hit leadoff, he’s non-committal to where the Rays center fielder will hit this year.  He also had extensive praise for Erik Bedard at the end of the conversation, and coined the word of the day, DATA-mentals (as opposed to fundamentals)

Maddon mentioned one of the pitchers he’d like to get a closer look at is CJ Riefenhauser.  The lefty from upstate New York is in his first year on the 40-man roster and in MLB cap after spending time in Double and Triple-A last year.

I asked Riefenhauser what it means to be in big league camp for the first time:

Riefenahuser was a 20th round pick of the Rays in 2010. He started last year in Double-A and was 4-0 with a 0.51 ERA.  He was moved up Durham after the Futures Game, and went 2-1 with the Bulls with a 3.05 ERA over 17 appearances.  All told, Riefenhauser worked just shy of 74 regular-season innings over 51 relief appearances.

Riefenhauser is likely to begin the season in Durham’s bullpen.  Now a lefty who will be a big part of this year’s Rays bullpen for sure is Jake McGee.  With a dominating fastball, McGee has been tinkering with his secondary pitches the past couple of years.  Rather than throw a cutter/slider, which he used last year, McGee has gone back to a curve ball, which he used in the minors.  McGee feels the larger speed differential will make his fastball even more effective.  McGee also will keep a changeup in his arsenal.

Of the players in camp, catcher Eddy Rodriguez left early as he was sick.  Happy birthday to Minor League Pitching Coordinator Dick Bosman, who turned 70 on Monday. Workouts continue in Port Charlotte on Tuesday.

-Neil Solondz

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