Odorizzi muscles up to take bite out of season's grind

Rays RHP focuses offseason work on strengthening legs and core

Odorizzi muscles up to take bite out of season's grind

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Seventeen pounds heavier, Jake Odorizzi is ready to roll this season.

The Rays right-hander set an offseason goal of gaining weight and strengthening himself for the coming 162-game grind. And he did so by concentrating on his leg and core muscles.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Over injury hurdle, Beckham excited to be at camp

Former No. 1 overall pick missed nearly all of 2014 with torn ACL

Over injury hurdle, Beckham excited to be at camp

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tim Beckham doesn't look in the rearview mirror.

Missed opportunities, different situations and twists of fate aren't important to Beckham, who chooses to stay in the present.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays' Casali, Wilson form bond while fighting for job

Rays' Casali, Wilson form bond while fighting for job

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Most Spring Training competitions are settled by the front office long before they ever play out. After all, the body of a player's work is more of an important evaluation than play during the exhibition season.

However, there are times when candidates vying for a spot are definitely fighting for a job. The battle for the Rays' backup catcher position is one such competition that might take until April to decide.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After busy offseason, Beliveau excited for season

After busy offseason, Beliveau excited for season

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jeff Beliveau was hanging out at home in Rhode Island a few weeks after the Rays' season ended when his phone rang. It was the Major League Baseball Players Association, and they wanted to know if Beliveau had any interest in a two-week tour of Japan while pitching in the MLB Japan All-Star Series.

"Immediately, I was like, yeah, 1,000 percent," he said Wednesday morning. "I was really excited."

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Visa issue resolved, Belisario reports to camp

Visa issue resolved, Belisario reports to camp

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- A visa issue held up reliever Ronald Belisario for a few days, but he showed up at Charlotte Sports Park on Wednesday morning ready to compete for a spot in the Rays' bullpen.

The 32-year-old right-hander signed a Minor League deal on Feb. 2. Signing so late in the offseason, he said, also led to a late visa appointment and a slight delay in getting out of Venezuela.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Francisco: Rays presented best opportunity for me to play

Unclear how he'd fit on roster, but slugger offers plenty of power

Francisco: Rays presented best opportunity for me to play

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays' roster isn't loaded with traditional power hitters, but non-roster invitee Juan Francisco fits the profile.

The 27-year-old slugger reported to Charlotte Sports Park on Wednesday and explained his decision to sign a Minor League deal with Tampa Bay this offseason. Francisco said he received multiple offers, but he thought the Rays presented him with the best opportunity.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Balfour returns home to be with ailing father

Balfour returns home to be with ailing father

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays reliever Grant Balfour left camp on Wednesday to be with his ailing father in Australia.

Balfour said recently that his father, David, has been battling pancreatic cancer for about three and a half years.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Longoria knows the Rays always find a way

Third baseman keeps faith in organization after busy offseason

Longoria knows the Rays always find a way

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Throughout an offseason of change for the Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria always believed it would turn out OK.

"On paper, it might have looked strange," he said Tuesday.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jennings reports to camp noticeably lighter

Speedy outfielder plans to swipe more bases, aims for injury-free season

Jennings reports to camp noticeably lighter

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Desmond Jennings isn't saying anything. He doesn't have to. Jennings' body is doing all the talking, and his body is saying the speedy outfielder intends to run more this season.

Jennings arrived to the Rays' camp on Tuesday noticeably lighter than last season, when he showed up looking considerably larger than past seasons. He allowed that he is lighter this spring. As far as the difference in pounds, that's another story.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jepsen eyes 'friendly competition' for closer's role

Right-hander spending early days of camp getting to know new teammates

Jepsen eyes 'friendly competition' for closer's role

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Kevin Jepsen for Matt Joyce looks like one of those deals that could benefit both teams.

Jepsen came to the Rays on Dec. 16 in the trade that sent Joyce to the Angels. Joyce will fill the Halos' left-field void since Josh Hamilton underwent right shoulder surgery on Feb. 4 and will miss a significant portion of the season. Meanwhile, Jepsen can help fill the void created by Jake McGee's left elbow surgery.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Under new manager Cash, revamped Rays open camp

Pitchers, catchers excited to get back on field, prepare for season

Under new manager Cash, revamped Rays open camp

ST. PETERSBURG -- Spring Training officially began Monday morning when Rays pitchers and catchers took the field for their first workout.

"It's always exciting to get back and start, get going again in the spring," right-hander Brad Boxberger said, "because it's been a while since playing the game. Getting back out there to work, especially with a new group of guys, it's exciting."

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cash cool, calm on his first day

New Rays manager oversees spring workout

Cash cool, calm on his first day

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Kevin Cash showed up for the Rays' first Spring Training workout for pitchers and catchers wearing No. 16.

Everyone knows that the new Tampa Bay manager did so while standing in the shadow of the previous skipper, Joe Maddon, whose familiar No. 70 was not present Monday. Or was it?

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Balfour aims to regain role of closer

With McGee out, job up for grabs at Rays camp

Balfour aims to regain role of closer

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Grant Balfour's 2014 campaign didn't go as planned. Now the Sydney, Australia native is ready to change his fortunes in 2015.

Before the start of last season, the Rays signed the veteran closer to a two-year, $12 million deal. All involved figured that the signing would eliminate any problems the Rays might experience in the ninth inning.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Asdrubal may play shortstop, second base or both

Veteran infielder prefers to play one position

Asdrubal may play shortstop, second base or both

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Count infielder Asdrubal Cabrera as one of the early arriving position players Monday when the Rays' pitchers and catchers had their first official spring workout.

Cabrera has been a shortstop for much of his career, so that would appear the natural slot for the veteran to assume. But it's not a foregone conclusion that he won't play second base, or both positions.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Longoria's performance among Rays' questions

Will Cash thrive as Tampa Bay's manager, and who will fill in as closer?

Longoria's performance among Rays' questions

ST. PETERSBURG -- Spring Training officially opens Monday, when the Rays pitchers and catchers hold their first workout. The workout will kick off the team's 18th camp, and its seventh in Charlotte County.

Kevin Cash will welcome 38 pitchers and catchers to Charlotte Sports Park to begin his reign as Tampa Bay's new manager.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fans turn out at Tropicana Field to support new-look Rays

Players, staff attended annual event that included autograph sessions, kids activities

Fans turn out at Tropicana Field to support new-look Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Saturday afternoon's Fan Fest turnout at Tropicana Field spoke volumes: Rays fans are ready to embrace their new-look club.

After an offseason that saw more turnover than normal, including the departure of favorites like Joe Maddon and Ben Zobrist, the fan base will be asked to observe the made-over squad before passing judgment.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays owner intends to explore new stadium sites

Rays owner intends to explore new stadium sites

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Stuart Sternberg plans to begin looking for a new stadium site, even without permission from the city of St. Petersburg. The Rays' principal owner revealed his intentions in a question-and-answer session with the Tampa Bay Times.

St. Petersburg city officials have denied Sternberg's request to explore sites for a new stadium. However, the city cannot block exploration for a site that could be used after 2027, when the team's contract to be tenants of Tropicana Field expires.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Leadership pinpoints pitching as Rays' strength

Cobb to head strong staff, though offense is a slight concern

Leadership pinpoints pitching as Rays' strength

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Yes, the Rays have concerns heading into the beginning of Spring Training, according to the team's new leadership, but those concerns seemed to pale in comparison to the strengths of the team.

President of baseball operations Matt Silverman and new manager Kevin Cash spoke at a news conference Friday afternoon at the Charlotte Sports Complex. Due to the chilly weather, the event that normally is held out of doors was held inside.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays embrace underdog status in AL East

After fourth-place finish in 2014, Tampa Bay is back in familiar role

Rays embrace underdog status in AL East

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Many picked the Rays to finish first in the American League East in 2014. Some even predicted a berth in the World Series.

Alas, that did not happen. Now, this year's club finds itself in a familiar role as the spring underdog. Instead of being forecast for the top, they are being picked for a last-place finish. Despite getting dissed, you won't hear any complaints from the Rays' camp. The underdog is exactly the role they want to play.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cash looking to employ everyday lineup for Rays

New manager expecting to use similar batting orders in spring to prepare for regular season

Cash looking to employ everyday lineup for Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Throughout the Rays' winning run that began in 2008, the team rarely employed anything resembling an everyday lineup.

That could be subject to change.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Several promotions planned for spring initiative

Rays to host Military Appreciation Day in opener, among other events

Several promotions planned for spring initiative

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays will honor Charlotte County school employees, veterans and Little Leaguers on different occasions throughout March at Charlotte Sports Park.

The Rays' Grapefruit League opener on March 5 against the defending American League East-champion Orioles will be Military Appreciation Day at Charlotte Sports Park, a special tribute to the men and women of Charlotte County who have served their country. The first 5,000 fans in attendance will receive a Tampa Bay military-themed T-shirt, and the USSOCOM Parachute Team will deliver an American flag and the first pitch ball as part of a special pregame presentation.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays' NRIs have potential for major impact

TB has history of success signing players to Minors deals with camp invites

Rays' NRIs have potential for major impact

ST. PETERSBURG -- Minor League deal with an invite to Major League Spring Training …

If ever a meaningless-sounding offseason transaction existed, it's the above mentioned. There's no chance a player of that standing could make it. A free agent has to be pretty low in the pecking order to sign such a deal, right?

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Lee destined for The Show this season?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from Rays fans

Inbox: Lee destined for The Show this season?

I hear a lot of talk about middle infielders, but no one is mentioning Hak-Ju Lee. Will he have a chance to make the big leagues this year?
-- Billy D., Arcadia, Fla.

Lee is in the mix, but I would consider him a long shot. MLB.com ranks the South Korean shortstop as the organization's No. 5 prospect. Had torn ligaments in his left knee not forced him to miss most of the 2013 season, he might have already reached The Show. Unfortunately for Lee, he did suffer the injury, which served as a major setback.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays reveal promo schedule with tickets set to go on sale

Single-game tix available online starting Saturday

ST. PETERSBURG -- Single-game tickets for Rays' 2015 regular-season home games will go on sale starting Saturday, Feb. 28. The team also announced its promotions schedule for 2015. On 27 weekend dates throughout the season, the Rays will once again offer unique giveaway items.

Single-game tickets will go on sale according to the following timeline:

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Rays' moves net huge prospect return for club

Souza, Velazquez among more than a half-dozen young players acquired via trades

Rays' moves net huge prospect return for club

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

While everyone is eagerly anticipating the start of a new baseball season, watching the very early stages of another Spring Training, there's no question that this offseason was one of the busiest in recent memory. Sure, nothing beats watching games on the field, but as counting down the days to another season goes, this was pretty action-packed.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Multiple spots up for grabs in Rays' lineup

Loney, Longoria have lock on corner infield, but other positions open

Multiple spots up for grabs in Rays' lineup

ST. PETERSBURG -- Who's on first?

Well, that's one position that's clear for the Rays heading into Spring Training. James Loney will again anchor first base in his third season with the team. Other spots aren't as clear, like the middle infield and the outfield, both of which have undergone change.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays head to spring with new look, same expectations

Cash, Silverman optimistic as camp approaches

Rays head to spring with new look, same expectations

ST. PETERSBURG -- Spring Training is a week away for the Rays, as they will begin their 18th camp, and seventh in Charlotte County, on Feb. 23.

Kevin Cash will welcome 38 pitchers and catchers to Charlotte Sports Park to begin his reign as the manager of the Rays.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Auld emphasizes promise, change in Presidents' Day message

ST. PETERSBURG -- From Rays president Brian Auld:

"It has been an extraordinary offseason for the Rays -- one full of change and promise. As you get ready for Opening Day on April 6, keep these three things in mind:

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.