Rays ready to roll despite shore offseason

rmooney@bradenton.comFebruary 16, 2009 

PORT CHARLOTTE — Despite the short offseason due to their run to the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays were eager to return work Sunday.

“I feel like I can vent a little bit from last year,” pitcher J.P. Howell said. “I can come out here and vent. I definitely held it in. We signed the guy who got the hit off me, so I don’t have to face him anymore, which is a relief. It does feel like I can go out there and get rid of some stuff I was holding in during the offseason.”

Howell allowed a double to former Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell in the seventh inning that led to the winning run in the fifth and deciding game of the World Series.

Burrell signed with the Rays in January.

Speaking of Burrell

The locker next to Burrell is for his bulldog, Elvis. It even comes with the number 5 1/2.

“I like it. I’m feeling it,” Howell said. “I want to see a dog with his own locker in the big leagues. Must be a very special dog.”

A hot one

The first day in the Rays’ new spring training home went well, though manager Joe Maddon didn’t take into account the heat generated by the mid-day sun.

The Rays normally start their workouts at 9:30 a.m., but with the pitchers and catchers receiving physicals, Maddon pushed the workout back to 1 p.m.

“I guess it’s going to get hotter,” Maddon said. “There’s no shade.”

Yeah, there is that.

“I think I’m going to go around and plant some trees,” pitcher Scott Kazmir said.

While the Charlotte Sports Park has all the tricks of a state-of-the-art facility, it doesn’t provide much in the way of cover from the afternoon sun. None of the spring training facilities do. Normally, that’s not a problem, because the Rays don’t work out in the afternoon.

Safe to say they won’t the rest of this spring.

High-praise

Despite the sun, the facility received rave reviews by the Rays.

“First-class,” Maddon called it.

Howell liked the hot and cold tubs that can accommodate six players at a time.

“If Percy’s in there we got four,” Howell said.

That would be closer Troy Percival.

Slimmer Dioner

Catcher Dioner Navarro reported to camp 15 pounds lighter. The American League All-Star said he now weighs 205 pounds.

Navarro hired a personal trainer and worked out ever day. He also changed his diet from eating three big meals a day to five or six.

“And no pops, that was a big thing,” he said. “No pops in the offseason; no sodas. Once in a while I grabbed a Dr. Pepper, but that was the main thing, drinking a lot of water and cutting down on the sodas.”

Noteworthy

All 38 pitchers and catchers invited to camp reported. Only one position player is not expected to be in camp Wednesday for the first full squad workout. That is second baseman Akinori Iwamura, who will remain in Japan and workout with Team Japan for next month’s World Baseball Classic ... Evan Longoria, David Price and Gabe Kapler will attend the Sarasota/Manatee Chamber Luncheon on Tuesday at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch.

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