The boys of spring have returned to Port Charlotte, Florida. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, pitchers and catchers first reported to Charlotte Sports Park, the pre-season home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Following inaugural formalities, which traditionally includes posing for countless photos, the squad then held its first workout a day later on the numerous fields surrounding the picturesque stadium.
With 65 players invited to camp, the most that Tampa Bay has brought to spring training since 2003, manager Joe Maddon supervised the initial practice. Only the team's 27 pitchers and seven catchers are initially required to report to the small community along Southwest Florida's Gulf Coast. However, numerous hitters elected to begin their workouts early at the club's facility, including Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Desmond Jennings, who were each spotted in the batting cages on Wednesday.
Several hundred baseball fans gathered to witness the nearly three hour practice that commenced at 10:00 a.m. While established pitchers like Fernando Rodney and Jeremy Hellickson drew the attention of on-lookers, this is also the time when younger players seek to catch the eye of the coaching staff. The workout was highlighted by the appearance of 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price. The 27 year-old is coming off the finest season of his 5 year career, which included a Rays' high 20 victories and a league-best 2.56 ERA
Following a team meeting on the field, the squad broke up into pairs for light tossing. With photographers eagerly snapping pictures, the coaching staff supervised a rotation of drills, such as fielding come-backers and covering first base. Making the rounds, pitching coach Jim Hickey imparted words of wisdom, and the majority of Maddon's staff is characterized by veteran coaches. Towards the end of practice, half of the pitchers threw a bullpen session, while others focused on stretching and running.
Procuring autographs and interacting with players proved a popular goal of many fans. With the Rays gradually heading for the locker room, the session concluded by 1:00 p.m. Similar morning workouts are scheduled for the rest of the week and the full squad will report on Sunday. For a closer look at the highlights of Wednesday's opening practice, please view the photos in the list above.
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