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Spring training approaches for reconstructed Tampa Bay Rays

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Can Corey Dickerson hit away from Coors Field?

Is Brad Miller really an everyday shortstop?

Will Steve Pearce really add some pop to the offense?

The Tampa Bay Rays begin to find out the answers to these, and a couple of dozen other questions, when they open spring training (to 38 pitchers and catchers) in 10 days. It will be the team’s 19th spring, and its eighth in Charlotte County.

Last season, the Rays finished 80-82, but this year, there are seven new members to the team. Dickerson and Miller came through trades, as is catcher Hank Conger, relief pitcher Danny Farquhar and first baseman-outfielder Logan Morrison. Right-handed pitcher Chase Whitley was acquired on waivers.

Once again, the Rays will be a young team. Only six players on the 40-man roster made their debut before 2013, and all 18 pitchers on the team are under 30. The Rays have started a pitcher under 30 for 236 straight games.

This will be the Rays’ second season under manager Kevin Cash and general manager Matt Silverman.

As usual, the Rays are counting on bounceback years from Dickerson (who played in only 65 games due to injuries) and Pearce (92). Conger hit only .299 (and threw out only one runner in 43 tries) and Morrison hit .225. Farquhr was 1-8. Still, the Rays are hopeful all of them can have rebound seasons.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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