PORT CHARLOTTE (620 WDAE) -- The Tampa Bay Rays finished their first round of bullpen sessions for pitchers and catchers, and manager Kevin Cash had plenty of compliments for reliever Brad Boxberger.
The right-hander, who missed a large chunk of 2016 due to a pair of injuries, showed up to camp noticably lighter. He said he dropped between 15 and 20 pounds over the offseason, and his manager feels Boxberger and those who have worked to improve their shape during the offseason have an early advantage.
"I'm really impressed with the guys that have come back and there was a lot of hard work put in managing their bodies or physiques. You can tell that people spent some quality time in the weight room or cardio and conditioning," Cash said Wednesday after practice. "But Box as far as his bullpen, he looked really good today."
Only two pitchers have failed to throw a bullpen session so far this spring. Right-hander Jose De Leon did not throw his bullpen Wednesday due to mid-back tightness. Cash said that he could throw as early as Thursday. Meanwhile, right-hander Erasmo Ramirez missed practice on Wednesday after tweaking his left hamstring while playing first base during pitchers field practice drills. The Rays manager doesn't feel Ramirez should miss much time either.
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KIERMAIER AMONG POSITION PLAYER NOW IN CAMP: Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier as expected reported to the team's facility in Port Charlotte Wednesday, and immediately got on the half-field to work bunts with new tammate Mallex Smith and special instructor Ozzie Timmons.
The two-time Gold Glove winner is keeping is personal goals as simple as possible.
"I said last year that I want to be available for every single game," Kiermaier said. "I know I said I wanted to start a certain amount of games, which was 155, but that's not a big deal to me. I want to be available for every single game. Whether that's starting, or a day off where I can come off the bench, I need to be available."
Kiermaier missed 48 games last year after breaking two bones in his left hand. In that stretch, Tampa Bay went from 20-19 to 34-55 on the season.
Along with Kiermaier, Infielders Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin and Brad Miller also reported to camp, leaving just three position players yet to report: third baseman Evan Longoria, first baseman Logan Morrison, and minor-league infielder Rickie Weeks Jr.
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RAMOS IN CAMP TO COMPLETE PITCHERS AND CATCHERS: Catcher Wilson Ramos, who missed the first two days of camp due to a family issue, reported to Port Charlotte on Wednesday. He said the issue he was dealing with was helping his wife with his daughter's transition in schools, as his wife has difficulty with her English.
As for his rehab from surgery to repair his ACL last September, the catcher said he has been working between three and four hours a day with his rehab and strength exercises. However, Cash says his progress is on the back burner for this spring.
"No disrespect to Wilson, [but] I really won't even be asking about him," the Rays manager said. "I'm sure [head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield], as diligent as he is, he's going to inform me. I'm thinking about him, but I already know he isn't going to be doing anything with us this spring."
COMING UP THURSDAY: The team will start the second round of bullpen sessions on the practice fields at Charlotte Sports Park. The players are scheduled to get out on the field around 10:30, with practice lasting about 90 minutes. Admission to practice is free and open to the public.