Spring Training, Day 2: Rays camp – pitching everywhere you see

If you went to the back fields of Port Charlotte today, you could have watched 3/5 of the Triple-A Durham rotation in action, obviously a rarity.

Two of them were going at the same time, with Alex Torres starting in the Double-A game and Alex Cobb starting the Triple-A contest against the Orioles (Don’t read into Torres starting down a level. The Rays wanted to make sure everyone got the innings they needed.). Chris Archer pitched in the Triple-A game after Torres. It was a whole lot of fun to station myself between the two games and track all that pitching depth (not to mention seeing Orioles’ prospect Manny Machado playing shortstop and singling off of Torres).

Cobb was pretty sharp throughout his outing. Torres scuffled a bit in his first inning — fastball command was the culprit — but settled down. Archer had some command issues in his first inning. He was supposed to go three, but because of the length of that first frame, his day was done after two innings. For all three, it was just one step in getting ready for the start of the Triple-A season on April 5.

Archer, of course, was in the Matt Garza trade and he was at the Rookie Career Development Program in 2011 when the news broke. He came across as a very thoughtful and well-spoken prospect and that clearly hasn’t changed, even with the struggles he had in the first part of the 2011 season.

There will be a story on Archer on the site in a while, along with some of the video interview I did with him. Here is the entire interview with the right-hander, who hopes to help out in Tampa at some point in the near future.

I also got to have a nice chat with Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics about some of the other players in the system, especially some from the bountiful 2011 Draft.

In general about the crop: “It is early. All have come in great shape. You never know in a young player because they don’t know exactly what to expect even though you tell them what to expect. They have offseason programs they have to do in preparation, but you still don’t know. All have come in great shape. There’s plenty of room for everyone to get at-bats and innings pitched.”

On Mikie Mahtook: “He came in here ready to go day one. He’s taking full advantage of our camp. I wouldn’t think he’ll break with double-A. We want to see him here. Keep in mind, he’s only been with us a little bit. We saw him a little bit in instructional league, some have seen him a little bit in the fall league. We don’t have a lot of history with Mikie. So there’s no rash decision on Mikie Mahtook. He’s a good player now, he’ll be a better player later. We want to assess and see and put him where we think he fits best.”

On Taylor Guerrieri: “Taylor is really doing great. He has so much upside. Historically, we are slow with young pitchers and young players. That’s our philosophy, our overall development philosophy. He shows great stuff. Now it’s a matter of tying everything together and it takes time. There’s a process they all have to go through. We all know the physical and mental process. As that all comes together, we expect these kids to do great things.”

On how Guerrieri fits into that overall philosophy: “What’s the rush? Historically, we’re slow with our youngest players. But our players tell us when they need to be moved or when they can be moved. Despite our overall philosophy, they make our decisions for us. But it’s a long-distance race. If there’s doubt, why rush? We have players in place at the Major League level and at the upper Minor Leagues, so what’s the rush? We’d rather make sure that when a player gets to the big leagues, there’s impact and longevity. We don’t have to force-feed players to get there. That has been from day one, since we started in 2006, that’s been the philosophy from ownership on down.”

(As an aside, I really like that line about ensuring impact and longevity. I think it speaks to why the Rays have had so much success in developing successful big leaguers.)

Finally, on others who have made an early impression: “Jake Hager. He’s a good looking infielder who’s done a nice job (also from the 2011 Draft). It’s going to take time to grow. You have young guys like Brandon Martin and James Harris, two young up and comers. We have some Dominicans, one in particular, Roberto Gomez, he’s on the radar. Those are just a few kids to mention.”

I’ve got big league game coverage the next couple of days, but will do my best to throw up some prospecty info on here along the way. Oh, and in case you missed it, here’s my story on the Dominican Prospect League tour in Florida.

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