PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. — When the Rays made their biggest cut of the spring on March 24, only three players were left on what had been a packed rear wall of the Charlotte Sports Park clubhouse.
One was big league veteran Joaquin Benoit, who was there trying to complete his comeback from shoulder surgery. Another was Alvin Colina, who was there to fill in as the third catcher. And the other was Heath Rollins, who was as surprised as anyone to still be there.
"I just try not to really think about it," Rollins said.
The chances of Rollins making the jump to the big leagues anytime soon are remote; the 24-year-old has worked just 12 innings above the Double-A level.
But the 2006 11th-round pick made a major impression on Rays manager Joe Maddon.
"I didn't know a whole lot about him before this camp," Maddon said. "What I do know is I love his demeanor. . . . You don't have to throw 100 miles an hour to be effective. This guy has plenty of fastball. I like his location, and his makeup.''
Rollins attended Winthrop University, usually starting on Friday nights, playing right field the other days and occasionally coming in to close. He was All-Conference at both positions.
He had a spectacular 2007, going 17-4, 2.54 for low Class A Columbus, and solid follow-up seasons as a starter. He spent most of last season leading the rotation at Double-A Montgomery before the Rays moved him to the bullpen with an eye to the future.
And after his impressive showing this spring, that future might not be so far away.
n Outfielder/first baseman Leslie Anderson, a Cuban defector working out in Mexico, agreed to terms on a major league contract, and the Rays were hoping to get him into camp before the end of spring training.
n Righthander Matt Bush, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, is working to rebuild his career, pitching in spring training with the Rays Class A squad. Bush missed the last two seasons with injuries and off-field issues.