PORT CHARLOTTE — If there is one day of the season when pitchers are truly ahead of the hitters, it is the first day of live batting practice.
That day was Saturday at Rays camp.
“First time seeing live pitching, the guy looks like he’s throwing 110 miles an hour,” OF Matt Joyce said. “You’re just trying to make contact. Sometimes it’s a good thing. You’re trying to simplify things. You’re not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to make contact.”
Joyce, like many of the Rays hitters, tracked pitches from LHP David Price and rookie RHP Victor Mateo in an attempt to re-adjust his batting eye to major-league pitching.
“That first time through, you want to track,” Joyce said. “I like to track, but at the same time, I want to know where I’m at. You want to know what feels good, what doesn’t.”
Price was pleased with his first day of throwing to hitters, especially since he was pitching at 9 a.m. so he could get to Tropicana Field in time for his autograph session at Fan Fest.
Like hitters facing pitchers for the first time, Price said there is an adjustment for pitchers facing hitters for the first time.
“It’s completely different to what you’ve done the entire offseason and the entire spring training leading up to this point,” Price said. “You’re so focused on seeing that mitt and nothing else around it or even close. You throw live BPs, you got the L-screen in front of us, the hitter standing in the box, the turtle (batting cage) behind them with people standing behind the catcher, you got a lot more stuff to look at, and it kind of helps us focus in on looking at the mitt.”
While the pitchers held the advantage Saturday, Joyce said it won’t be long until the hitters catch up.
“Everybody’s different, but you take a lot of swings in the cage, hit on the field a bunch,” he said. “For the most part, most hitters are hitting before they come here. After that, it’s getting in the game-type simulation. It’s going to take four or five days to get used to it.”
Let’s see that again
Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, will visit the complex this afternoon to go over the instant replay rules that will be instituted this season.
The Red Sox, Twins, Orioles and Pirates will also be in attendance.
“I’m curious of what they have to say,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Torre briefed the managers in December at the Winter Meetings. Maddon said he hasn’t reviewed the rules since then. He said he was waiting for today’s meeting for a better understanding.
“I need to watch, listen,” he said. “We have to learn how to utilize it. I know they’re saying it’s kind of cut and dry, but there’s definitely going to be ways of implementation in regards to being right as often as possible in terms of challenges. More than anything, see what they have to say, embrace it, be flexible about it and see how it works.”
2B Ben Zobrist said his lower back, which he tweaked Wednesday in the weight room and caused him to miss his third workout Saturday, is making progress.
“Everything I’ve been doing has felt good,” he said. “I’m always like, ‘What’s next?’ ”
Zobrist said he hopes to join the workouts by the middle of the week.
Maddon said he was impressed Saturday with the way RHP Heath Bell, LHP Jake McGee, LHP Jeff Beliveau, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and RHP Nathan Karns all threw Saturday morning during live BP. ... Maddon said there might be a simulated game/controlled intrasquad game in the middle of the week so the Rays can work on bunting and bunt defense. ... About 20,000 people attended Saturday’s Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. Maddon’s Thanksmas dinner raised nearly $10,000 for the homeless.