A Change Of Scenery Could Benefit Casey Gillaspie

When Conor Gillaspie played for the White Sox from 2013 to 2015, he used to talk about how his little brother Casey was a much better hitter.

Casey Gillaspie was a star first baseman at Wichita State when Conor was in Chicago, and the Rays drafted him 20th overall in 2014.

Expected to make a quick climb in the Rays organization, Casey instead was slowed by a broken finger in 2015 and a broken toe last season.

Tampa Bay named him its minor league player of the year in 2016, when he combined to hit .284/.388/479 with 18 home runs in 132 games at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, but Gillaspie fell out of favor last season. On July 27, he was traded to White Sox for reliever Dan Jennings.

“It kind of caught me off guard,” Gillaspie said. “I love the (Rays) organization; they drafted me in the first round . . . Maybe it was a bad fit for me, but every year is different. I had a slow year last year, so hopefully this year I can start out strong and have a good year.”

Gillaspie is in big league camp this spring, and he’ll try following in brother Conor’s footsteps.

A natural first baseman, the switch-hitting Gillaspie is blocked by Jose Abreu. He figures to get a look at DH and is also willing to try the corner outfield spots.

“I’ve gotten myself into a little better shape,” Gillaspie said, “just in case they need me to play outfield. I played a little outfield in college and a lot of outfield in high school. It’s been a couple of years, but I feel confident I can get back out there and work at it and get better.”

General manager Rick Hahn is hoping a change of scenery helps Gillaspie improve.

“There’s a reason he had the draft stock he did at the time, and that’s because of his tools,” Hahn said. “The reason he was available, perhaps, is because he hadn’t lived up quite yet from a performance standpoint. We’ve got an opportunity here for our player development staff and a change of scenery to hopefully unlock a little bit of that potential.”

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