Regulars return to Grapefruit League action following historic visit
By Andrew Astleford
Special to MLB.com |
TAMPA, Fla. -- Evan Longoria stood in a dim corridor Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the pomp and pageantry of the Rays' exhibition against the Cuban national team far away. Still, memories of the club's Havana trip remained fresh for the third baseman.
Like many of his teammates, Longoria plans to treasure the experiences from the historic visit.
"It was something that I'll definitely never forget," he said before the Rays' 6-2 victory over the Yankees. "What I took away from it was the joy that the Cuban people had … in that game. Just seeing the excitement when we were on the field for batting practice and during the game and just how passionate they were for the sport, I think, it's something I'll definitely never, never forget."
Everyone in the Rays' starting lineup Thursday saw action in the victory over the Cuban national team on Tuesday. The game Thursday was the players' first since returning to the United States following departure issues in Havana. They landed in Tampa shortly before 5 a.m. ET Wednesday, after they experienced a nearly seven-hour delay at Jose Marti International Airport because of airplane mechanical problems. An optional workout Wednesday at Tropicana Field was canceled.
Rays manager Kevin Cash considered his team ready to continue its spring work. To him, the Cuba trip was beneficial for the club's development.
"It was great for our team," Cash said. "We spent a lot of hours together, especially on the plane. But it came as advertised with the passion of baseball that kind of floats through Cuba.
"Guys were a little bit tired [after returning]. They came in, and they got an off-day [Wednesday]. They'll be ready to go, and they'll bounce right back and a lot of these guys that will play [Thursday night] will come back and play [Friday]."
Catcher Rene Rivera was prepared to move on after the memorable journey.
"It was a great experience, eye-opening experience," Rivera said, "to go down and feel the energy from the Cuban players and Cuban fans."
Beckham hit by pitch
Yankees left-hander Tyler Olson hit shortstop Tim Beckham in the right shin with a pitch in the top of the sixth inning on Thursday, but Beckham said he'll be fine.
Beckham walked off the field with a slight limp after the play, with Willy Adames entering as a pinch-runner. Beckham said he'll treat the injury with ice, and his goal is to return to the lineup Saturday.
"I don't like coming out of the game by any means," Beckham said, "but I just wanted to play it smart. ... If it happened in the season, I wouldn't have been coming out."
"I think Beck is fine," Cash said. "But it was more or less, 'We're not going to have you go out there and alter your stride and mess up a hamstring.'"
Winston throws first pitch
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, a former pitcher and outfielder at Florida State, threw out the first pitch. It wasn't his first time to George M. Steinbrenner Field, though. Winston went 0-for-2 against New York in the Yankees' 8-3 victory over the Seminoles on Feb. 25, 2014.
Winston admitted missing baseball.
"Absolutely," he said. "But we've got so much stuff ahead of us at Tampa Bay with the Bucs. So I've got to focus on football and put baseball behind [me]."
Andrew Astleford is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.