Catcher Rene Pinto took a slow path to the Rays’ 40-man roster.
Signed at age 16 out of Venezuela in October 2013, he spent five years working his way through the lower levels of the minors. He finally reached Double-A in 2019, but like other minor leaguers, he sat out 2020 and was limited to workouts at the alternate training site.
Then Pinto was sent back to Double-A Montgomery in 2021. This time he was ready for a breakthrough.
He really took off when promoted to Triple-A Durham. In total he hit .274/.325/.500 with 20 home runs in 93 games.
He also made a good enough impression that the Rays added him to the 40-man roster to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent.
“For several years, Rene has shown flashes of big tools while progressing through our system,’’ Rays vice president of player development and international scouting Carlos Rodriguez said.
“Our staff suggested that with more time and reps he would be able to display those tools more consistently to become a viable option for our major league club. His selection to the roster is one of the more gratifying wins for our players development staff.’’
Pinto used the time at the 2020 alt site workouts to make improvements.
“As a catcher, the foremost area of improvement has been his receiving,’’ Rodriguez said. “He already had strong hands and above-average arm strength, but Rene worked at making adjustments to his setup that came with favorable results this year.
“Offensively, we saw big power to all fields against some of our better arms in the 2020 alternate training site that gave us hope that Rene’s hitting was taking a step forward.’’
Pinto needs some work on his blocking and game-calling, which should improve as his relationships with big league pitchers develop.
Regardless, the Rays feel pretty good about what they have in the 25-year-old Pinto, Rodriguez said.
“Rene has all the tools to be a frontline major league catcher.’’
— Relievers DJ Johnson and Chris Mazza were among players outrighted off the Rays’ 40-man roster who subsequently became minor league free agents. Also becoming a free agent was outfielder Garrett Whitley, the Rays’ 2015 first-round pick; catcher Chris Betts, a 2015 second-round pick; and first baseman Dalton Kelly, a November 2016 trade acquisition from the Mariners who hit 27 homers in 2021 at Triple-A.
— Greg Brown, who spent two seasons as a minor league hitting coordinator for the Rays after nine years coaching at Division II Nova Southeastern (Fla.), was hired as the Cubs’ major league hitting coach.
— Outfielder Randy Arozarena was named AL Rookie of the Year. Shortstop Wander Franco was also selected as one of the three finalists for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America award.