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Jake Cronenworth Thrives In New Role

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Ever since the Rays drafted him in the seventh round out of Michigan in 2015, shortstop Jake Cronenworth has done a lot well.

He was named team MVP at short-season Hudson Valley in his pro debut. He made the Midwest and Florida State league all-star teams in 2016 and 2017.

In 2018, Cronenworth overcame an 0-for-28 start at Double-A Montgomery to put together a solid season.

But he never did enough to garner attention in the prospect-rich and middle infielder-laden Rays organization.

The tide is turning this year for the 25-year-old Cronenworth at Triple-A Durham, where he has been one of the Rays' most interesting stories. Through 44 games he had hit .371/.464/.551 with five home runs and seven stolen bases.

"It’s been a complete 180 from last year, and a lot of the work I put on in the offseason and spring training is starting to pay off," Cronenworth told Neil Solondz of Rays radio.

Farm director Mitch Lukevics said he was not surprised that Cronenworth had broken out.

"Jake has been the same player since the day he signed," Lukevics said. "Not too high, not too low. Great intangibles—attitude, coachability, aptitude, work ethic. His is putting it all together now."

Enhancing Cronenworth's intrigue quotient is that he no longer is focused only on hitting.

The Rays quietly approached him in spring training about becoming a two-way player once again after he had pitched and played the field in college.

Initially reluctant, Cronenworth began by throwing bullpen sessions. Then he tried pitching live batting practice. By the time he made his first appearance for Durham on May 18, he was reaching the mid-90s and showing a swing-and-miss curveball.

"I think I surprised myself and some others; I didn’t expect to throw that hard," Cronenworth said. "Seeing that up on the board, it gave me a lot of confidence."

He has captured the attention of Rays manager Kevin Cash.

"His stuff has graded our pretty well," Cash said. "Interesting to see how that develops . . . What a weapon to have if you trust the defense at short, the bat, and then obviously him on the mound.’’

COOL RAYS

Brendan McKay, the Rays' first-round pick in 2017, was promoted on May 24 from Double-A to Triple-A Durham based on his remarkable numbers on the mound. He went 3-0, 1.30 with 62 strikeouts in 41.2 innings and just nine walks. His hitting wasn’t as impressive. McKay hit .167 with two extra-base hits and a .448 OPS in the Southern League.

— Outfielder Ryan Boldt, the 2016 second-rounder, will miss the entire season after having Tommy John surgery on May 20.

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