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Rays announce start times, single-admission doubleheader

Now, here’s a concept for you.

How about twice the Rays for the price?

On Saturday, June 10, the Tampa Bay Rays will play the Oakland A’s in a single-admission doubleheader. It will be Major League Baseball’s first scheduled doubleheader since July 16, 2011, when the A’s hosted the Los Angeles Angels, and only the second scheduled doubleheader in the last two decades.

The Rays also announced their game times for the upcoming season, which opens on Sunday, April 2, when the team plays host to the New York Yankees.

Monday through Friday home games begin at 7:10 p.m. With select matinee games throughout the season. Saturday games are scheduled for either 6:10 p.m. or 4:10 p.m., with Sunday games scheduled for 1:10 p.m.

This will be the team’s third season under manager Kevin Cash.

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Rays trade pitcher Drew Smyly for Mallex Smith, prospects

The Tampa Bay Rays, still trying to escape from the AL East cellar, have added some speed to their roster.

The Rays traded pitcher Drew Smiley for young outfielder Mallex  Smith and prospects Carlos Vargas and Ryan Yarbrough. Smith will fit into a suddenly crowded outfield, which also will feature free agent Colby Rasmus, signed two days ago.

Smith stole 16 bases for the Atlanta Braves last year. He has 299 steals in the minor leagues.

Smith, 23, would help the Rays’ outfield makeup by added speed and defense. Rasmus, too, is considered a plus outfielder. He hit .238 last year.

You have to give up something to get something,” Rays general manager Erik Neander said on the team’s website. “But the type of deal we made, the return we got, we thought was something that made sense for us. We’re eager to see how it plays out from here.

“We are heavier with starting pitching than we are in some other areas. And this is an opportunity for us. One of the goals we set out to accomplish this winter was to put ourselves in position to be competitive in 2017, and we’re really doing everything we can to increase competition within our group, be more dynamic and have a greater mix and see how it shakes out.”

Smyly was available because of the Rays’ glut of starting pitchers and his salary. He was schedule to make $6.9 million this season through arbitration. Acquired from Detroit at the July 31, 2014 trade deadline in the David Price trade, Smyly was 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts with the Rays, including 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA last season.

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Rays add Colby Rasmus to their outfield, need bullpen help

The Tampa Bay Rays may have to tweak their starting rotation.

Obviously, the bullpen needs work.

As far as the regular lineup, however, the Rays have gotten better this off-season with the addition of Colby Rasmus and catcher Wilson Ramos. Whether they have done enough remains to be seen, but it’s a start toward fixing last year’s 68-94 record, the only non-winning team in the AL East.

Rasmus has had four 20-home run seasons and is thought of as an excellent defender.

Part of the equation, of course, will be when, and how many games, Ramos can catch. Another part will be how much Rasmus can hit. Rasmus hit only .206 last year in an injury-plagued year.

Still, the lineup of Brad Miller at first, Logan Forsythe at second, Matt Duffy at short, Evan Longoria at third and Ramos behind the plate has some promise. Rasmus would slide into left, with Corey Dickerson at DH. Kevin Kiermaier is in center and Steven Souza in right.

After Alex Colome, the pen needs attention, as does the rotation, where only Jake Odorizzi had a winning record a year ago.

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Rays cast dissenting vote against CBA to protest their plight

The need a little help. They didn’t feel they got it.

Hence was Stu Sternberg’s lone dissenting vote as MLB owners ratified their new labor agreement by a vote of 29-1.

The Rays have long felt that the gap between large-market and small-market teams was widening, and they viewed the new labor agreement as a chance to address their concerns.

“I am thankful for the hard work, leadership, and spirit of compromise that were essential to this agreement coming together,” Sternberg told the Associated Press in an e-mail. “However, twice a decade, the bargaining process provides an opportunity to address the extraordinary and widening competitive gap that exists on-field between higher and lower revenue clubs. I feel that opportunity was missed here.”

The Rays wanted changes in the draft, for instance, that would give small market teams additional picks.

“Lower revenue clubs face a lot of obstacles, especially when it comes to talent acquisition,” baseball operations president Matt Silverman said last month. “We can’t go out and spend like other clubs so we need to find other avenues to be able to acquire that talent. We’ve looked for additional access on the amateur side, on the international side, and there haven’t been any major changes in the last 10 years, and in fact the revenue disparity between clubs has grown by an immense amount.”

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Rays add all-star catcher Wilson Ramos to their roster

The Tampa Bay Rays will have a new catcher in their lineup … eventually.

The Rays formally announced the signing of Wilson Ramos, the former catcher of the Washington Nationals. The Rays signed him as a free agent for a two-year contract worth $12.5 million. Ramos can earn another $5.75 million through incentives.

It may take some time for Tampa Bay to see what it has in Ramos. Ramos suffered a ACL in his right knee near the end of last season. It could be June, maybe as long as the all-star game before Ramos returns. He will probably come back first as a DH.

“The pace of my rehab, at the very least, I expect to be available for the team, getting at-bats, DHing, really from the beginning of May,” Ramos said Monday on a conference call — that includes another $5.75 million in incentives — official. “The people doing my therapy (in South Florida) have been really impressed.”

“A healthy Wilson Ramos is one of the best all-around catchers in baseball,” said Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom. “Few players at the position can impact all facets of the game like he can. We’re excited for what Wilson will contribute to both our offense and our pitching staff, and we look forward to getting him back on the field soon.”

Last year, Ramos played in 131 games and hit .307 with 22 homers for the Nationals.

To make room for Ramos on the roster, the team designed former No. 1 draft pick Justin O’Connor for assignment. O’Connor had two back surgeries a year ago.

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Despite finishing 25 games back, Matt Silverman sees bright spots

They finished in last place in the AL East. They lost 94 times. They were the second-worst team in baseball. They hit 216 home runs, but 136 of them were solos.

And still, Tampa Bay Rays general manager Matt Silverman talked about bright spots.

In the Rays’ season-ending news conference Tuesday, Silverman talked about a team he expects to be better in 2017 despite the flaws of this season.

“We’re incredibly disappointed,” Silverman said. “The season went south so early, and we were never able to crawl back into relevance. That feeling, it gnaws at us. It gnaws at Stu (Sternberg). It gnaws at Brian Auld. It gnaws at the players. We don’t want that to happen again.

“It’s a talented club, and there were several bright spots. But in finishing 25 games back, there weren’t enough bright spots.  We’re hellbent on getting this team back in contention. We have several players in-house, but we’re going to need some new players, too.”

In particular, Silverman said, he was disappointed in the base running, the defense, and the bullpen. But he pointed out that his team was in the Top 10 in slugging.

Will there be enough changes? Manager Kevin Cash praised first baseman Brad Miller, and Silverman praised second baseman Logan Forsythe. Cash was looking forward to seeing more  of Matt Duffy, and he praised the season of Evan Longoria. The team said it missed Kevin Kiermaier terribly while he was hurt, and Cash pointed out that both Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza Jr. were important pieces. Silverman said the team would look for catching, but he said there were a couple of young catchers on the team who were possibilities. The team talked about its starting pitchers, although it needs more bullpen.

So can an intact core mean a significant difference for the Rays?

“We know we underperformed. Millions of fans across Tampa Bay are upset. We’re upset. This is not the performance we expect and not the type of club we want to put on the field.

“But there were bright spots. When we make those hard decisions, and we try to figure out which way to go, we have to make sure we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There are good players on this club. There is a lot of talent to this club.”

Even after last place, Silverman said, there is still confidence. There is still optimism.

Of course, it couldn’t hurt if there were a few guys on base when the team hits a home run.

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Hooray! Rays end the 2106 season by beating Rangers again

It ended just fine. It was all those games that came before the end that were the problem.

The Tampa Bay Rays closed out their season with a 6-4 extra innings win over the Texas Rangers and a two-game winning streak. But the Rays finished with a 68-94 record, good for the second-worst record in the majors league. It was the worst record Tampa Bay has had since 2007.

The Rays, led by manager Kevin Cash, finished ahead of only the Minnesota Twins.

In the 10th inning, Richie Shaffer scored on a wild pitch, and Curt Casali doubled in Alexei Ramirez.

Alex Colome blew his third save of the season, but he was the winning pitcher.

Ramirez had four hits for the Rays, while Logan Forsythe, Shaffer and Casali each had two.

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Rays’ Chris Archer manages to avoid his 20th defeat

No, Chris Archer didn’t have a good season.

Just a good finish.

Archer, the Rays’ pitcher, avoided his 20th loss of the year Thursday night in a 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Archer would have been the first pitcher since 2003 (Detroit’s Mike Mayroth) to lose 20.

Instead of becoming a trivia answer for years (who was the last pitcher to lose 20?), Archer instead will finish 9-19. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs. The Rays had a comfortable 5-1 lead until Archer surrended a two-run homer to Carlos Sanchez.

Kevin Kiermaier had three hits for the Rays. Mikie Mahtook, Alexei Ramirez and Curt Casali all had two for Archer, who had lacked hefty support all year. In his 19 losses this season, Archer has allowed only 26 runs.

Archer also passed 200 innings pitched for the second straight year.

Rays’ manager Kevin Cash called Archer’s performance “outstanding.” Since the all-star game, Archer had a record of 5-7.

The Rays had lost nine of their previous 10 games.

Alex Colome made his 36th save.

The Rays now conclude their season with three games against the Rangers. Matt Andriese pitches for Tampa Bay tonight against Yu Darvish.

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Rays’ Chris Archer loses franchise-tying 18th game of the season

There wasn’t anything particularly new to the way Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays lost his 18th game of the year Saturday afternoon.

He didn’t give up a lot of hits. Only four.

He didn’t give up a lot of runs. Only three in seven innings.

He did give up home run balls. Two of them.

In the end, Archer still was the losing pitcher in a 5-1 loss to the New York Yankees Saturday. It was Archer’s franchise-tying 18th defeat (tying Tanyon Sturtz).

The game was tied in the sixth inning when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer and Gary Sanchez hit a solo homer.

For the Rays, Bobby Wilson homered in the eighth. New York padded its lead with two in the bottom of the eighth.

Masahiro Tanaka got the win for the Yankees to improve his record to 13-4.

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Rays let go of longtime hitting coach Derek Shelton

For the first six seasons of Derek Shelton’s career with the Tampa Bay Rays, it wasn’t his fault.

This year, evidently, it was.

The Rays fired Shelton, a longtime target of fans’ displeasure, Tuesday and replaced him with minor-league instructor Chad Mattola.

Tampa Bay has long struggled offensively, but some observers thought that was because hitting talent is more expensive, and therefore more difficult to obtain on a budget such as the Rays. Tampa Bay also has struggled to develop its own hitters in the minors.

Shelton worked for the Rays for seven seasons. His worst-hitting team was 2012, when it hit only .240. It hit .257 a year later.

Rays general manager Matt Silverman said the franchise wanted a new voice. Shelton was originally hired by Joe Maddon and was inherited by current manager Kevin Cash.

“We are grateful for all that Derek has given to the Rays for the past seven seasons. He brought great energy to our clubhouse and his work ethic with our hitters was outstanding,” said Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman in a statement. “We decided it was time for a new voice. Chad has worked with players throughout the organization for several years now, and we are excited for the perspectives and experiences he will bring to this role.”

One change could have been that this year’s batting order swung more freely and hit more home runs.

Mottola, who turns 45 next month, becomes the seventh hitting coach in Rays history following Shelton (2010-16), Steve Henderson (1998, 2006-09), Lee Elia (2003-05), Milt May (2002), Wade Boggs (2001) and Leon Roberts (1999-2000).

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