ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays received their American League championship rings on Monday afternoon, giving them another chance to look back on their success in 2020 and look ahead to the jewelry they’d like to earn this year.
Gathering as a team before Monday’s series opener at Tropicana Field, the Rays unboxed their rings and watched a video recognizing their accomplishments last season. Principal owner Stu Sternberg and general manager Erik Neander addressed the team, expressing their appreciation for how Tampa Bay’s players and staff thrived despite the unusual circumstances of playing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Each ring has the individual player’s name and number on the side and the Rays’ sunburst logo on top. Suffice it to say Kevin Kiermaier, their longest-tenured player, is a fan of the design.
“They’re beautiful. No other word to put it. I think all of us were blown away by them,” Kiermaier said. “About as sexy as a ring could get without being a World Series champion. We’d much rather have it like that, but once again, lots to be proud of being an American League champion. That’s what the rings represent, and no one will be able to take those away from us.”
Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough said he got goosebumps during the highlight video, which followed the team’s journey from Spring Training to Summer Camp, all the way to the World Series. Manager Kevin Cash said the ring will be a reminder of how special last season was. Outfielder Manuel Margot views it as motivation.
“To be quite honest, the one you go for is the one to win the World Series,” Margot said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “Obviously I’m very happy and appreciative of it. The goal now is to be able to go back and receive the real one.”
After sending right-hander Brent Honeywell Jr. back to the alternate training site following his impressive Major League debut on Sunday afternoon, the Rays recalled right-hander Trevor Richards on Monday to add a fresh arm to their bullpen. Cash said Richards, who has a 4.23 ERA in 55 1/3 innings over 16 outings with the Rays since 2019, could be used in a number of different roles, but he’s best suited to cover multiple innings.
Honeywell, meanwhile, will continue his Spring Training-type buildup over the next month at the alternate training site. Cash said he and Neander encouraged the 26-year-old righty, who went 1,300 days between meaningful competitive outings, to be upfront about how he’s feeling as he increases his workload.
The Rays have not officially determined who will replace Chris Archer in their rotation later this week, and Cash said it could depend on how they use their pitching staff over the next few days. The most likely option at their alternate training site is left-hander Josh Fleming, who pitched well in a starting/bulk-inning role last season and enjoyed an excellent Spring Training.
The Rays received some good news on Archer, though, indicating that replacing him in the rotation could be a short-term concern. Cash said Archer, who is on the injured list with right lateral forearm tightness, could play catch before the end of the homestand. The quicker Archer resumes throwing, obviously, the less time he’ll need to rebuild his arm strength.
“We’re hearing good news. Arch was in a good frame of mind,” Cash said. “I think if we can get him playing catch, the build-up should be pretty quickly back. As long as that tendinitis kind of subsides with just rest, medicine, whatever it is, we’re optimistic that it will not be that long of a stay.”
Kiermaier said he ran on Monday for the first time since he was placed on the 10-day injured list last Tuesday due to a strained left quad. Kiermaier said he felt good, noting that he ran at about 70 percent effort.
The center fielder is eligible to come off the injured list on Friday, and while he’s wary of the injury lingering if he rushes back, he said he’s optimistic he could return “within the next week or so.”
“I feel like everything’s gone as smooth as it could at this point so far,” he added. “So I’m ready to go, just trying to keep my arm and everything else in shape so whenever I’m asked to take the field again, I’m more than ready. And I know I’ll be.”
As much of a highlight as it was to receive his AL championship ring, Yarbrough had something even more meaningful to celebrate on Monday afternoon — he and his wife, Nicole, learned that they have a baby girl due around October.
The couple revealed the baby’s gender at Tropicana Field, where Yarbrough joked he was afraid the cannons would leave pink stains on the turf.
“We’re just excited to kind of enjoy this moment today,” said Yarbrough, who will start Tuesday night against the Rangers. “It’s been a great day, probably one of the best days of my life, to be honest.”
Arozarena earns weekly honor
Randy Arozarena’s incredible diving catch in right-center field at Fenway Park in the fourth inning on April 5 was named the “Play of the Week” by Major League Baseball. Arozarena became the first Rays player to earn such a nod since the award was introduced in 2019.