PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays got back to business Tuesday morning in Port Charlotte for their first official full team workout of Spring Training.
The Rays have built a team this season that is ‘World Series-or-bust.’ They had a taste of the World Series in 2020, followed up that season with 100 wins and they’re the back-to-back American League East Division champions.
For Rays manager Kevin Cash and president of baseball operations Erik Neander, the time is now.
“That was the last thing that was said at our meeting, we’re built to win,” Cash said Tuesday. “How many wins that comes, who knows. We know we are in a very good division. I don’t think much is going to change from that.”
“This group collectively has raised the bar,” Neander added. “The 100 wins last year is not by accident. It’s a complete team, you have to have a deep team. The bullpen last year, we were three lines deep.”
The Rays added two-time Cy Young-winning pitcher Corey Kluber to the mix. He spent the last few seasons with the New York Yankees. 21-year-old phenom shortstop Wander Franco will get his first full season in the big leagues and sluggers Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena also return.
“The raw talent of this group is really special,” Neander said. “That was evident last year. To add someone like Corey Kluber, over time we’ve talked about the importance of those veteran examples that have life experiences, accomplishments he has, it’s huge.”
“We’ve been surrounded by some good veteran pitchers here the last couple of years to help these young guys,” Rays catcher Mike Zunino said. “When you look at Corey’s resume it’s right at the top with all those guys.”
Cash would like to ease his starters into the line-up, but there’s not much time with a shortened camp. The first spring training camp is Friday in Fort Myers. The season opener is April 8 vs. Orioles at Tropicana Field.