Nick Ciuffo Among Rays Invites

ST. PETERSBURG–When given the opportunity to come over to major league camp last spring to help out the Rays’ injury-depleted catching crew for a few days, prospect Nick Ciuffo made clear how big a deal that was.

“I call those The Doors to Narnia,” Ciuffo said after walking down the hall to the other side of the Rays’ spring training facility. “When you cross those doors, you go into Narnia, you go into a fairy tale land because of how nice it is over here.”

The big league clubhouse and all its amenities won’t be a fantasy to Ciuffo this spring because the Rays made him one of 11 minor leaguers invited to major league camp.

Pitchers Jeff Ames and Andrew Kittredge, catcher Jonah Heim, first baseman Casey Gillaspie and Dalton Kelly, infielder Jake Hager and outfielders Johnny Field and Dayron Varona, Jake Bauers and Patrick Leonard also were invited. Kittredge and Kelly were acquired from the Mariners in the Nov. 18 trade for Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer.

They will join eight other prospects who were previously added to the roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft: pitchers Jose Alvarado, Chih-Wei Hu, Austin Pruitt, Jaime Schultz, Ryne Stanek and Hunter Wood as well as infielders Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson.

In addition the Rays took righthander Kevin Gadea in the Rule 5 draft, adding to the what will be a prospect-laden camp. From that group, Pruitt, Schultz and Stanek will have the best chance to make the team given several openings in the bullpen.

Also invited after being signed to minor league deals are players with more advanced experience such as lefthanders Dana Eveland and Justin Marks (who both pitched for the Rays last season), righthanders Diego Moreno and Neil Wagner, catcher Michael McKenry, utilityman Ryan Brett and outfielder Shane Peterson.


• Steve Henderson, who served two stints as the major league hitting coach, rejoined the organization to as a minor league coordinator, having spent the last seven seasons in the Phillies organization.

• Todd Kalas, a member of the broadcast crew for all 19 seasons, left the team to take a job as the play-by-play broadcaster with the Astros.

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