Tristan Gray Finds Ways To Get Noticed
In a spring camp packed with highly-rated infield prospects, headlined by Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan, it would seem hard to get noticed.
But 25-year-old second baseman Tristan Gray found a way to make sure everyone noticed him.
“He doesn’t need to worry about that,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s got everybody in this camp knowing his name.’’
Gray did that, and earned a roster spot at Triple-A Durham with an impressive showing.
What stood out the most was how hard the 6-foot-3 Gray was hitting the ball, and how well he was moving on the infield, including at shortstop. Since being acquired from the Pirates in a 2018 deal for outfielder Corey Dickerson, he's added about 30 pounds of muscle and now pushes 225 pounds.
Gray, who last hit .225/.332/.409 with 17 home runs in 122 games at Double-A Montgomery in 2019, gives credit for his offensive surge to Montgomery hitting coach Jamie Nelson, who during the 2019 season provided guidance and a new drill routine that made a huge difference.
“I went into his office in the middle of 2019 and told him, 'Hey, I just need an hour. Please just help me. Do whatever you want to do. I am at rock bottom right now,' " Gray said.
Between that routine and becoming more selective at swinging at pitches he could damage, Gray felt he had a better approach. Working with big league hitting coach Chad Mottola got Gray to use his back side to get power in his swing.
Being able to play shortstop in addition to the other infield spots, Gray said it was a matter of determination to get more reps at the position.
“I grew up playing there all the time,’’ he said. “As I've come through (the minors) I've been working the corners more, but this camp I was able to get out there and put in the work. I definitely took it as a challenge and look forward to getting more opportunities.’’
— Lefthander Shane McClanahan struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced over three one-inning spring outings, but that wasn’t enough to change the team’s plans to have him spend the first month or so of the season building up to a starter’s workload. On April 29, he was called up to join the Rays' rotation, making his first regular season appearance nearly seven months after his historic big league debut in the postseason.
— In assigning Wander Franco to Triple-A along with Taylor Walls, the Rays will have two of their top shortstop prospects share time at the position while also playing second and third base during a six-game week.