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3 things to watch as Rays continue spring training

The team is currently dealing with salary arbitration cases with a few players, while others, such as Harold Ramirez, have already won their cases.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays are set to begin their second week of spring training out in the sun at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

The team is currently dealing with salary arbitration cases with a few players, while others, such as Harold Ramirez, have already won their cases.

Putting financial decisions aside, Tampa Bay still needs to figure out which players will start in different key positions. So while the Rays continue to prepare for the upcoming MLB season — and perhaps spend some time with Mickey Mouse at Disney while they still can — here are three things to watch during spring training. 


Christian Bethancourt and Francisco Mejia will look to fill in as the team's catcher after Mike Zunino's departure to the Cleveland Guardians. 

Both players have a similar style of play, such as the attributes of grip-and-grip hitters and making sporadic contact.

One thing Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash can count on for both players is their power potential and exposing the opposition's mistakes. 

Bethancourt may slightly win the starting role over Mejia due to his excellent arm strength, but Mejia will provide a safe option in that position should Bethancourt spend time on the sidelines. 


The first base position may be the biggest question mark for Cash and his team.

The Rays traded first baseman Ji-man Choi to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason. The team, however, still has a few players that can come in and try to adapt as first baseman, but that may also present some flaws, especially if Cash would like a left-handed starter in that position. 

Jonathan Aranda should check all the boxes that Cash may be looking for — left-handed and has a good vision at the plate. 

Brandon Lowe is also a contender, but injuries prevented him from reaching top form last season. When fit, he can bring good attributes to the tables but still has trouble dealing with lefties and could potentially get exposed defensively due to the new rules regarding defensive shifts.

Another player halted by injuries in 2022 was Wander Franco. He suffered a quad strain and hamate bone fracture. The rising star has yet to show strong displays on a consistent basis, but he can be considered a solid defender at shortstop. If he can translate that form to first base, he may be considered for that position. 

Cash will look at Yandy Diaz and Isaac Paredes to start at first base, but their defensive struggles will most likely rule them out for the nod, while Taylor Walls and Vidal Brujan will remain in backup roles. 

Designated Hitter 

Harold Ramirez is a safe bet for Tampa Bay's designated hitter this season. However, the reasons for that may be because he's one of the few options the Rays have on the roster more so than being an elite player.

Ramirez will need a wonder season to answer the questions surrounding his play, such as not hitting for much power, lacking in drawn walks, lack of speed on the bases and striking out often.

Strong displays in spring training will give Cash confidence that Ramirez can deliver throughout the season. 

While in Orlando, the Rays will play a Grapefruit League home game on Feb. 28 against the New York Yankees. At the beginning of March, Tampa Bay will head back to St. Petersburg and play the rest of their spring home games at Tropicana Field. 

Fans can check out the Rays' full 2023 Spring Training schedule here.

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