Rays' First-Round Picks Stay Patient
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.—Outfielder Mikie Mahtook and third baseman Richie Shaffer did what they could last year when given the chance to play in the majors for the first time.
Despite making good impressions, they knew there was nothing they could do when the Rays made as series of offseason moves that pretty much ensured they were headed back to Triple-A Durham.
"You can’t get caught up in the other stuff, like personnel additions,’’ said Shaffer, 25, a 2012 first-round pick from Clemson. "What are you going to do about it? You can’t get too upset about it or feel slighted or whatever.
"If there’s not a spot and I’ve got to go back to Triple-A, then that’s what I’ve got to do. I’m a professional, and that’s part of it . . . You’ve got to go out there, keep doing your thing, keep your head up and keep grinding, and your opportunity will pop up at some point.”
Mahtook had more big league success of the two last year, hitting .295 with nine homers and a .970 OPS in 41 games. He rocked lefthanders for a .662 slugging percentage.
"I felt like last year I showed what I was capable of doing,” said Mahtook, 26, a 2011 first-round pick from Louisiana State. "I know that it wasn’t a fluke . . . I think that’s just a flash of what I can bring for a full season. I have extreme confidence in myself.”
Shaffer does too, though his numbers weren’t as good. He hit .189 with four homers and a .699 OPS, striking out 32 times in 74 at-bats. Still, he is confident.
"I think I can bring value to this team, absolutely,’’ Shaffer said. "I think I’m ready to be a major league player, and I intend to show that. Whether I get that opportunity right away or not is a little out of my control . . .
"I’ve put in all the work I need to, I’m confident. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been. I’m ready to go.”
• The Rays relaxed minor league dress code rules that stood for most of their 20 seasons, now allowing players to have neatly trimmed facial hair and wear their uniform pants long. "I think it was time,’’ farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "It’s 2016.’’
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• Cuban-born outfielder Dayron Varona had an emotional reunion with family members during the Rays’ mid-spring trip to Havana. Varona left Cuba three years ago on a boat with his mom and didn’t know when, or if, he would see them again this season.