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More roster moves for Rays: Sucre makes team; Casali, Maile optioned

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Luke Maile plays catch during an open workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.


Tampa Bay Rays catcher Luke Maile plays catch during an open workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.

UPDATE, 10:08: With Tolleson "on the outside looking in,'' the Rays have competition for final bullpen spots among Jumbo Diaz, Chase Whitley and prospects Jaime Schultz and Austin Pruitt. ... Cash said he expects both Marks and Moreno to help the Rays at some point this season.

UPDATE, 10:03: Cash said RHP Shawn Tolleson is likely headed to open the season on the DL  as he has been slowed by back issues. He also praised Sucre for winning a spot on the team, noting his defensive skills in particular, and said Norris will get most of the playing time.

UPDATE, 9:49: The Rays have told C Jesus Sucre he will make the opening day roster and have also optioned Curt Casali to AAA.

Also optioned was RHP Ryan Garton.

Resassigned to minor-league camp were LHP Justin Marks, C Michael McKenry, RHP Diego Moreno, and OF Shane Peterson.

Sucre needs to be added to the roster, as do Rickie Weeks and Tommy Hunter. …

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Rays report: Erasmo on mound vs. Orioles in PC, 1:05

UPDATE, 8:48: Here is the Rays lineup, with newcomer Peter Bourjos getting right to work:

Bourjos cf,
Norris DH,
Longoria 3b,
Dickerson LF,
Weeks 1b,
Souza RF,
Beckham SS,
Franklin 2b,
Sucre c,
Ramirez p

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back in Port Charlotte for the first of their final two home games of the spring, facing the Orioles at 1:05.

RHP Erasmo Ramirez is starting today, which could be a sign of either wanting to have him stretched out in case there is an issue with one of the starters (such as Alex Cobb's previously stiff back), or so he can pitch multiple innings if one of the starters gets knocked out early, or in showcase for a potential trade.

SS Tim Beckham said he will be back in action today after missing the last two games due to a hip flexor issue.

OF Peter Bourjos has already joined the team, following his Tuesday trade from the White Sox.


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Three takeaways from Tuesday's 1-0 loss at Twins

Chris Archer looks as ready as any of the Rays’ starters for his Opening Day start.

AP photo

Chris Archer looks as ready as any of the Rays’ starters for his Opening Day start.

3 takeaways from Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to the Twins in Fort Myers:

1. RHP Chris Archer looks as ready as any of the Rays’ Opening Day starters for his Opening Day start, Sunday against the visiting Yankees. He dealt with an uneven camp in that he left to pitch for the USA in the WBC and had to work with two new catchers – Jesus Sucre, in camp from the start, and now Derek Norris.

Archer said he had some goals for this spring: work on his fastball command, improve his changeup, focus on each pitch and not get caught up with who’s batting. Manager Kevin Cash said Archer put checks in all those boxes. Cash said this is Archer’s best spring during Cash’s three seasons as manager. Archer agrees. It’s hard not to agree.

Archer has worked efficiently, allowed only three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings while striking out 17. Pitchers often shrug off poor spring outings by saying it’s spring and he’s working on something. Archer was working on a lot while dealing with the WBC distraction and excelled.

That might be the best sign on the team heading into Sunday’s opener.  …

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UPDATE: Rays finalize deal to to acquire Peter Bourjos from White Sox

The Rays acquired Peter Bourjos from the White Sox for cash considerations or a player to be named.


The Rays acquired Peter Bourjos from the White Sox for cash considerations or a player to be named.

UPDATE, 11:00: The deal is now official, Bourjos acquired for cash considerations or a player to be named.

Though he is a class xx(b) free agent, the Rays will delay the decision on whether he makes the opening day roster by paying him the $100,000 retention bonus. That also gives them the option to send him to Triple-A Durham, as he is on a minor-league deal.

Bourjos hit .251-5-23 for the Phillies in 355 at-bats last season with a .681 OPS. …

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Hunter, Weeks will make Rays opening day roster

Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Rickie Weeks (8) rounds the bases on his solo home run in the second inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.


Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Rickie Weeks (8) rounds the bases on his solo home run in the second inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Veterans RHP Tommy Hunter and INF Rickie Weeks have been told by manager Kevin Cash they will be on the Rays opening day roster.

The Rays had to make a decision by noon today on the two, as they were classified as xx(b) free agents and signed minor-league deals and either tell them they would make the roster, be released, or paid a $100,000 retention bonus to stick around.

Both figure to play key roles for the Rays, with Hunter joining a bullpen tha will be missing RHP Brad Boxberger for at least the first month, and Weeks playing 1B (or DH) against lefty pitchers.

The Rays are in the process of finalizing a trade with the White Sox (for cash considerations) for veteran OF Peter Bourjos, who is subject to the same restrictions, but it appears they will wait on that decision and pay him the bonus. That also allows the Rays to send him to Triple-A for depth there.

Hunter said this morning he was excited by the opportunity.

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Rays report: Archer facing Twins, Bourjos coming in

Chris Archer is slated to be on the mound for the Rays.


Chris Archer is slated to be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 10:25: There was some good news on SS Matt Duffy, who said an MRI on his surgically repaired left heel was clean and that after four days of rest - with his heel in a cast - it only felt better today but felt "normal.'' But, Duffy said he will be taking it "super slow" to build up strength and then start further testing the heel, which make it premature to even predict when he will be able to start playing. Duffy did say a similar rest program helped him last spring when he was with the Giants, and he played several months with no issues.

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Our latest prediction for Rays opening day roster

Sixth of our weekly semi-educated guesses at the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

PITCHERS (12): Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Xavier Cedeno, Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Jumbo Diaz, Danny Farquhar, Tommy Hunter*, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Snell, Chase Whitley

CATCHERS (2): Derek Norris*, Jesus Sucre*

INFIELDERS (6): Tim Beckham, Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Daniel Robertson, Rickie Weeks*

OUTFIELDERS (5): Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith, Steven Souza Jr., TBD from outside organization*

DISABLED LIST (6): RHP Brad Boxberger, SS Matt Duffy, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Kevin Gadea, C Wilson Ramos, OF Colby Rasmus

* Has to be added to 40-man roster


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Rays new Trop offerings include Urban Dugout, Fish Shack, Cuban Favorites

Urban Chicken and Waffle Cone and Urban Mac and Cheese which will be available at Urban Dugout.


Urban Chicken and Waffle Cone and Urban Mac and Cheese which will be available at Urban Dugout.

In addition to announcing new head chef Marcelo Miranda, the Rays and concessionaire Centerplate today unveiled a number of new food and drink offerings at the Trop for this season.

Among the highlights in the release from the team:

* New to the lineup is the Urban Dugout, a food stand operated by Urban Restaurant Group. Their St. Petersburg restaurants-Urban Brew and BBQ, Urban Comfort, Urban Deli and Drafts and Urban Creamery-serve up fresh goodies prepared from scratch. The stand will feature a selection of favorites including their famous crispy fried chicken sandwich, chicken and waffles, homemade mac and cheese and delicious BBQ plates. Crowd favorites Taco Bus, Pipo's and Evan Longoria's Ducky's restaurant all return this season, as well. …

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3 takeaways from Rays 7-4 loss to Yankees

3 takeaways from Rays 7-4 loss to Yankees:

* RHP Matt Andriese needs to pitch better. Given the No. 5 starter's job without much competition, Andriese welcomed the chance to settle into a spring routine knowing he would be in the rotation. But he hasn't pitched well enough to inspire much confidence, Sunday's laborius outing (86 pitches, 51 strikes) the latest example. Over four big-league spring games, Andriese has allowed 17 hits and six walks in 10 2/3 innings, while also pitching in a minor-league game and a sim game. One major issue Sunday was a lack of aggressiveness overall and the absence of his effective off-speed pitches. "I've got to forget about this one and move on to the next one and get ready for the season,'' Andriese said. …

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Cobb scratched from minor-league start due to back tightness

Rays RHP Alex Cobb was scratched from a planned minor-league intrasquad start this morning in Port Charlotte due to lower back tightness.

Manager Kevin Cash said they did not expect the issue to disrupt their season-opening pitching plans, as Cobb is slated to pitch Game 3 on April 5.

"I don't think it changes anything,'' Cash said.

Sunday was to be Cobb's long start of the spring, when he was to throw 100+ pitches, and then make an abbreviated outing on Friday in Clearwater.

The Rays probably won't know until seeing how he feels on Monday how best to proceed, but Cobb could just skip this start, pitch Friday and head into the season.

Cobb said via text he "definitely could have pitched today" and "this is really nothing.''


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Rays report: Andriese vs. Yankees in Tampa, 1:05

UPDATE, 1:17: The addition of C Derek Norris to the 40-man roster was made official as the Rays placed Rule 5 pick RHP Kevin Gadea on the 60-day DL due to right elbow tendinitis. Gadea was going to be returned to the Mariners when he developed a sore elbow; he now will get major-league pay and service time while on the DL.

UPDATE, 12:14: 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Logan Morrison, bench/infield coach Tom Foley and manager Kevin Cash all gave positive reviews of their first experience on the new turf at Tropicana Field, noting that it looked better and played true.

UPDATE, 12:02: The Rays lineup, with Robertson replacing Tim Beckham, who was scratched due to irritation in his hip flexor that he started feeling after Saturday's game:

Dickerson lf
Kiermaier cf
Longoria 3b
Miller 2b
Morrison 1b
Weeks dh
Robertson ss
Sucre c
Smith rf
Andriese p

UPDATE, 9:48: Haven't seen Rays lineup but here is how Yankees look for today:
Ellsbury cf
Hicks lf
Bird 1b
Carter dh
Judge rf
Romine c
Torreyes 3b
Tejada 2b
Kozma ss
Mitchell p …

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3 takeaways from Rays 7-5 loss to Red Sox

3 takeaways from Rays 7-5 loss to Red Sox

* LHP Blake Snell showed improvement, but still has to get better. The second-year lefty apparently got the message that his bosses were tired of seeing him pitch poorly and then say he knows what he needs to do but has to do it. He showed some of that over 4 2/3 on Saturday, throwing his fastball with more conviction and using his slider as a weapon. But he made a big mistake in allowing a three-run homer to Pablo Sandoval, and throwing 92 pitches without getting through five innings isn't good enough, and he seemed to know that, too. "I was happy with the way I attacked the zone,'' Snell said. "I felt like I took a stride, I felt like I was more into it, more believing in what I have, more aggressive. Definitely taking that positive, knowing there's a bunch I still need to work on.'' …

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Rays make official deal with free-agent C Derek Norris

The Rays on Saturday made official the signing of free-agent C Derek Norris, who got a one-year deal for $1.2-million plus up to $800,000 in incentives.

Norris, 28, was released last week by the Nationals, who out-bid the Rays to sign Matt Wieters.

The Rays have to create space to add Norris to the 40-man, and will announce a corresponding move later. Moving RHP Kevin Gadea or C Wilson Ramos to the 60-day DL seem easiest.

With Norris expected to be their starting catcher and Jesus Sucre in line to be the other, the Rays are looking at sending either Curt Casali or Luke Maile to Triple-A and possibly trade the other.

Signing Norris gives the Rays a more experienced option behind the plate, as they otherwise would be picking two catchers from the group of Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre, who was acquired just before spring training from the Mariners. Norris has made 446 big-league starts for Oakland and San Diego, Casali has made 116, Sucre 77 and Maile 43.

He chose the Rays over several other teams based on the opportunity for more playing time. …

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Rays Colby Rasmus expected to open season on DL

Rays OF Colby Rasmus said this morning he expects to open the season on the DL.

Though Rasmus has been playing in games as the DH, he said Saturday morning he doesn't feel good enough in recovery from hip and core muscle repair surgery yet to play the field at full speed, which the Rays have said is a prerequisite.

"We've been trying to progress up to that point but it's probably looking like I'm going to start on the DL,'' Rasmus said. "It's not nothing major but I don't feel that I'm ready to run something down in the gap for nine innings. I've been doing a lot of outfield work and it feels pretty good but I don't think I'm quite to that point yet.''

With DL stays shortened to 10 days this season, and backdating limited to three, Rasmus could miss as few as six games over the first seven days of the season, which opens next Sunday.

"We'll just have to see how it goes day by day,'' he said. "I had hoped that I would be able to maybe DH, but that's not what they're looking for me to do.''

Manager Kevin Cash confirmed that is the current plan.

"Colby has made huge strides here the last couple days,'' he said. "We've all spent time talking with him. I think it's a pretty good thought process that he has saying that when he comes out and plays the field he wants to make sure he feels good and can go track a ball down in the gap and he's just not quite there yet. He will continue to get his at-bats DH-ing and just continue taking it day to day and see how he does. ... We're more optimistic, and I think he is, too, that it's sooner than later if he does start with that scenario.''

With Rasmus out, OF Mallex Smith seems likely to make the opening day roster, and probably start in leftfield on opening day, with Corey Dickerson as the DH. …

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Rays report: Snell faces Red Sox in Port Charlotte, 1:05

UPDATE, 10:56: Here is the Red Sox lineup:
Castillo cf
Sandoval 3b
Young dh
Rutledge 1b
Hernandez 2b
Swihart c
Selsky rf
Brentz lf
Marrero ss
Haviland p

UPDATE, 10:33: Rasmus is now out of the lineup, with Logan Morrison as the DH and leadoff hitter.

UPDATE: 10:08: Colby Rasmus said, and Cash confirmed, that he is expected to start the season on the DL as he is not yet ready to play the field after recovering from hip and core muscle repair surgery and wants to be sure he will be at full speed before doing so. That should be good news for OF Mallex Smith to make the opening day roster. ....  No official word yet on Norris signing, but could be later today. Rays Cash said, hypothetically, it means three guys competing for two jobs - Casali, Maile and Sucre - are now doing so for one. ... Cash said the infielders plus outfielders Corey Dickerson, Mallex Smith and Kevin Kiermaier will work out at the Trop on Sunday morning to check out the new turf, then head over to Tampa to play the Yankees. .. Noting some recent sloppy play, Cash said, it's time to clean some stuff up.'' …

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