The Rays signed nine players to one-year deals on Tuesday including Elijah Dukes and Dioner Navarro. Also signing were pitchers Tim Corcoran, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Ridgway, Chris Seddon, Brian Stokes, Jon Switzer and Mitch Talbot.
Though the full squad is not required to show up to Rays camp until Thursday, most of the players are getting there early and All-Star Carl Crawford showed up on Monday. On Tuesday Ben Zobrist and Jonny Gomes reported, with Gomes sporting the Britney Spears
Pitcher and catchers worked out Saturday and of the 23 position players, 17 have already reported to the Naimoli Complex including Jorge Cantu, Rocco Baldelli, B.J. Upton and Delmon Young.
"I'm happy to see them. It indicates they're eager to get going," said Rays manager Joe Maddon on Monday.
Maddon said pitcher Scott Kazmir looked "really sharp" as well. "I was watching his balance, his arm slot. It was really nice," Maddon said.
When Maddon addressed the media before the first Rays practice, he pretty much pencilled in Kazmir, Casey Fossum, Jae Seo and James Shields as members of the starting rotation.
Now that Spring Training is officially under way, Rays fans finally have a reason to return to the ballpark. On Saturday, 31 of 33 pitchers reported to camp and worked out.
The two missing pitchers, Juan Salas and Tony Peguero, failed to report due to visa issues in the Dominican Republic. Also 13 of 23 infielders and outfielders showed up including Rocco Baldelli, Jorge Cantu, Akinori Iwamora, Elijah Dukes, BJ Upton, and Ty Wigginton.
With only 13 days remaining until the team's first exhibition game against the Yankees, the Rays players have come to take care of business even if, like on Saturday, it is 30 degrees outside.
"I've been impressed with the offseason workout program," Maddon said. "I was here the other daywhen guys were working out a litte bit and then I saw a real eagerness about the group. Looks like they came ready and I take that as a sign they listened to what we had spoken about last year."
The Rays hot stove show, "Countdown to Opening Day," continues on Monday night at 7 p.m. and will air live from Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill only on 620 WDAE. Special guests this week include Scott Kazmir, bench coach Bill Evers, and Rays Director of International Operations Carlos Alfonso.
The Rays are quickly becoming a favorite in Asia. With the team already having Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura as its biggest offseason acquisition, Tampa Bay pulled off a trade Tuesday for South Korean pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu.
His name is pronounced, thankfully, like Jay Cook You.
Ryu came from the Cubs, who received minor league outfielder Andrew Lopez and pitcher Greg Reinhardt. Ryu joins fellow South Korean Jae Seo on the Rays staff. Shinji Mori, also from Japan, is hoping to catch on as a reliever with a minor-league deal after missing last season with a shoulder injury.
"He has four average to above-average pitches with good command," said Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman in the St. Pete Times, adding that he forecasts Ryu as a "very good back-of-the-rotation starter."
Unfortunately to this point, Ryu is best known for killing a bird. In 2003 when he was 19 and a member of the Cubs' Class A affiliate in Daytona, Ryu threw four balls at an osprey on top of a utility pole. One of them connected, and the bird died six days later. Ryu was charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.