Spring training is always an incredible experience for players and fans alike as everyone from the superstars to the top prospects to the Triple-A lifers take the same field. The veterans get to have a nice relaxing time as they build up to the season, the prospects get to pick the brains of the stars they have been emulating for the years, and the career minor leaguers get to live the dream at least for a few weeks and maybe even make the team with a strong performance. The relaxed atmosphere of spring training begins to fade away, though, as cuts begin and players head to minor league camp. The Rays made their second round of cuts yesterday, ending the big league camp experiences for 11 different players.
The most notable players who were sent down were four top pitching prospects from their 40-man roster: lefty Mike Montgomery, who was acquired in the James Shields trade, fellow lefties Enny Romero and Felipe Rivero, and right-hander Alex Colome, who may be the closest of the four to the major leagues although he could also end up in a relief role. Despite pitching last season at High-A, Romero might have been the most surprising cut as he went 5 shutout innings across 3 appearances, allowing just 3 hits and striking out 4 while walking just 2. Romero and all of these pitchers may be gone for now, but rest assured they will be back.
The other pitchers that were sent down were four relievers: right-handers Matt Buschmann and Marquis Fleming and lefties Frank De Los Santos and Adam Liberatore. De Los Santos is the only one on the 40-man roster, but it was his fellow lefty Liberatore who pitched the best, managing a 2.70 ERA and a 5-2 strikeout to walk ratio in 3.2 innings pitched. All four pitchers will head to Triple-A Durham and will hope to continue proving themselves as they try to crack the Rays’ bullpen by the end of the season.
Aside from the eight pitchers, three position players were sent down: catcher Mark Thomas, first baseman Nick Weglarz, and infielder Shawn O’Malley. O’Malley actually played really well, going 4 for 12 with 6 runs scored and 2 stolen bases, and Thomas hit a big home run, and all three will hope to play well at Triple-A to make their way onto the Rays roster. Thomas is the one of the three with the most promise, being an excellent defensive catcher with flashes of power, and if he can hit and a more consistent basis, he could be the Rays’ catcher of the future.
In terms of the players who are still in Rays camp, here’s the Rays lineup for Tuesday.
The thing that jumps out most about this lineup is the fact that Johnson is playing first base, a position he has never played as a professional. After playing only second base the past six years, Johnson is really working on his versatility with the Rays, working to be comfortable at several positions. Sean Rodriguez is also getting set for a utility role, seeing time in the outfield once again, while the Rays’ second baseman isn’t a single member of their “quadtoon” (three of whom are playing different positions in this game) but Mike Fontenot, who has impressed early on in camp. The coolest part of this lineup, though, probably has to be top prospect Wil Myers and Hak-Ju Lee in the lineup hoping to prove themselves alongside big leaguers. Myers hasn’t lit up the world like he needed to in order to make the Rays and Lee has gone just 3 for 14 (.214) although he has stolen 3 bases, but hopefully they can impress in this game and make things interesting as the number of players in each teams’ camps get smaller and the quality competition gradually begins to increase.