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Tampa Bay Rays set roster for preseason game against Cuba

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Thanks to a bit of lobbying by his teammates, Dayron Varona is going home.

Varona, a Cuban-born infielder, is among the 34 players who the Tampa Bay Rays have decided to take on their trip to Havana, Cuba, to play the Cuban National team on March 22. Several players, inclucing Chris Archer and Evan Longoria, spoke up on the behalf of Varona, but manager Kevin Cash said there was no need.

“Obviously, this is a very special opportunity for me,” said Varona through a team translator. “Clearly, it’s difficult to have been away from my homeland as long as I have been, so I’m really looking forward to this special opportunity and thankful for the opportunity.”

Matt Moore will be the starting pitcher for the Rays in the game that takes place on March 22 at 2 p.m. ET.

“I think it’s really cool,” Moore said. “Some guys are probably going to get to go but may not play, but that will still be awesome. For me to get to compete and get to do that, I think it’s something I’ll definitely appreciate from here on out.”

Cash said there was no need for the team to lobby for Varona.

“Without a doubt,” Cash said. “My gosh, the guy’s been over here for three years.”

The starting lineup will look much like it did Tuesday during the Rays’ 5-2 loss to the visiting Phillies with Logan Morrison at first base, Logan Forsythe at second, Brad Miller at shortstop, Longoria at third base, Desmond Jennings in left field, Kevin Kiermaier in center, Steven Souza in right, Curt Casali catching and Corey Dickerson as the DH.

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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