Tampa Bay Rays
Future bright at shortstop for Rays
PORT CHARLOTTE - The battle for shortstop is between Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez, but they aren't the only shortstops in camp who will garner attention. Prized prospect Hak-Ju Lee reported Saturday for his first big league camp and joined Tim Beckham, the top pick in the 2008 draft, in one corner of the Rays clubhouse. Beckham is no stranger to Rays camp, and while his star seems to be fading according to those who rank the prospects, the Rays have not given up on the 22-year-old. "Timmy's really put himself back in the picture," manager Joe Maddon said.Beckham did that last season when better plate discipline and a better swing produced a combined .271 average between Montgomery and Durham. More importantly, he improved his defense be erasing some bad habits while fielding and throwing. "Just a natural progression," Maddon said. Lee, ranked by ESPN.com's Keith Law as the 12th best prospect in baseball, is considered the big piece in the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs in January 2011. A Florida State League mid- and postseason all-star last season with Charlotte, Lee has started at shortstop during the past two Futures Games. "You hear the same thing from everybody. It's pretty consistent," Maddon said. "He's the full package. It's not just that he does this or that well. Great defense, fine arm, moves the ball, very fast on the bases, so it's going to be exciting to watch this." Lee, who reached Montgomery last season, said he is just as eager to play in front of Maddon. "I'm ready, always ready. So, just play hard, work hard, that's it," Lee said. When asked what he needs to improve upon to be ready for the major leagues, Lee said, "I'm ready now." Then he laughed and added, "I need more games and practice, everything." Feeding the beast Beckham and Lee are examples of what the Rays need to do in order to remain competitive. Beckham came through the draft while Lee was a prospect acquired in a trade. "When you're not in the same stratosphere in terms of finances (with other teams) then you have to have your own pipeline," Maddon said. "Get your own, grow it yourself and make sure it arrives at the right time. We're able to do that, and it's going to continue. I always read this stuff that, well it's not going to last. Nobody, obviously, has checked out our farm system. And furthermore the guys who are playing are relatively young." Go get 'em, men The first full squad workout of the spring begins this morning and will feature live pitching. As usual, the workout will begin with a meeting in which executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and Maddon will address the group. The meeting will end with joke from Rays traveling secretary Jeff Ziegler, always a high point of the spring. Maddon will echo his remarks made at the start of camp that he believes this team has the potential to reach the World Series. "Of course I'm going to say some things, but I really don't think they need me to say anything, actually," Maddon said. "They're on a good path right now, and I think it's our job as a staff to keep them focused and keep them there." Noteworthy Jeff Niemann, Jeremy Hellickson, Burke Badenhop, Jake McGee, Alex Cobb, Josh Lueke and Matt Bush are among the pitchers scheduled to throw today. … 1B Juan Miranda is expected to be in camp today. … Friedman suffered what he called a groin injury Friday while playing touch football with the baseball ops and PR staff. … The Zim Bear has its own Facebook page.