ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays begin play Friday night at Houston 17 games under .500, a scenario that only fuels speculation the team will be sellers as the July 31 trade deadline nears.
LHP David Price will be the big name thrown around in trade rumors. There will be others, too, like 2B Ben Zobrist, who can be very attractive to a contender looking for help in the infield or outfield. The Rays hold a $7.5 million option on Zobrist for 2015.
“I would have to be lying to say it never crosses my mind,” Zobrist said. “But it never crosses my mind when I’m playing and I’m working.”
Zobrist said he knows executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will never make a move for the sake of making a move, that any perceived salary dump will net in return players who Friedman views as being pieces to another team.
“Then again, I don’t think the organization has ever been in this situation before, so you don’t know what decisions they’re going to make,” Zobrist said. “And it’s still mid-June. We’re not mathematically eliminated yet. If we change things and start playing the way we’re capable playing I’d say it’s going to be pretty much like most years where they don’t do anything.
“ I wouldn’t be surprised because we got a team they believed in at the start of the season. We were just told they still believe in us. We got to keep going out there and make it happen, change things from the way they’ve been, make some W’s start happening.”
The Rays signed RHP Cameron Varga, their second-round pick in this month’s draft,
Terms were not announced, but Varga was drafted 60th overall, and the suggested bonus for a player picked at that slot is $943,200.
Varga, 19, was 10-0 with 141 strikeouts and six walks in 58 innings this spring at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.
The flying catch made in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win against the Cardinals by RF Kevin Kiermaier will be talked about for some time and added credence to manager Joe Maddon’s claim that Kiermaier is already the best outfielder in the major leagues.
That Kiermair said he lost the ball in the Tropicana Field lights before making the catch will only add to the mystique surrounding what stands as now the play of the year for the Rays.
“That’s how we do it in Indiana,” Kiermaier joked when asked about his leaping abilities.
LF Matt Joyce said he wasn’t surprised Kiermaier was able to catch up to the ball after a long run into the right-center field gap.
“I love watching him in the outfield. I love watching him play, period,” Joyce said. “He’s a great player. He’s going to be a great player for a long time. The only thing is sometimes he plays too hard. I told him you’re way more valuable on the field than off, so stop sliding like that into first.”
Rays on the catwalk
The ninth annual Rays on the Runway fashion show to benefit the Children’s Dream Fund is scheduled for June 25 at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg.
Doors open a 6:30 p.m. Reserved runway tickets are $250, Individual tickets are $125. For more information, go to childrensdreamfund.org or call 1-727-896-690.
Joyce’s RBI single in the fourth inning Wednesday snapped a team-wide 0-for-21 slump with runners in scoring position. Joyce was 0-for-11 with RISP before the hit. ... CF Desmond Jennings single with the bases-loaded in the fourth inning was his first hit with the bases full since May 16, 2013 against the Red Sox. Jennings was hitless in 11 at-bats with the bases loaded since then. His hit was only the seventh by a Rays player in 43 at-bats this season with the bases full. ... RHP Grant Balfour’s seven-out save was the longest by a Ray since RHP Jake Odorizzi’s three-inning save Sept. 24, 2013 at New York.