5 things to know about new Rays outfielder/infielder Richie Palacios

ST. PETERSBURG — Richie Palacios sees himself as a Rays kind of player.

Which has made the energetic, outgoing lefty-swinging outfielder even more excited about the January trade that sent him from St. Louis to Tampa Bay for reliever Andrew Kittredge. A move that gives him a chance to make his first opening day roster.

“I love to just have fun,” said Palacios. “I love to have fun on the baseball field. We do play a game. And, yes, it is stressful, but I like to enjoy it. I like to enjoy the moments when we’re winning and like to enjoy the moments even when we’re losing.

“So I just like to have fun out there and bring a good vibe. And I see how Tampa has always played, so I feel like I fit right in.”

Here are four other things to know about the 26-year-old Palacios:

Family affair

Baseball is definitely the family business.

Palacios’ older brother, Joshua, is also in the majors, currently on the Pirates’ 40-man roster after playing 91 games as an outfielder for them last season following previous stints with the Jays and Nationals.

Their father, Richard, played in the Tigers’ minor-league system.

Their uncle, and Richard’s brother, Rey, played in the majors for the Royals from 1988-90 as a backup catcher and utilityman.

Richie and Joshua, who is 22 months older, have played together on youth league teams and in the 2023 World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands (their mom is from Curacao).

And even more exciting against each other in the minors and, last year, in the majors, exchanging lineup cards before one of the games, with Richie hitting his first big-league homer.

They like to talk about competing against each other and look forward to doing it more often. Of note: The Rays play spring games vs. the Pirates on March 1, 4, 17, and are in Pittsburgh from June 21-23.

Welcome to Tampa Bay

Palacios has played for two big-league teams and against 21, but had never faced the Rays. The only current Ray he knows is Curtis Mead, from playing together in the 2021 Arizona Fall League

Palacios’ only visit to Tropicana Field was a few weeks ago when he came from his Arizona offseason home for a new player orientation. He made plenty of Thanksgiving visits to Florida to see relatives, but has limited knowledge of the Tampa Bay area.

“It’s funny, but I was talking to somebody about Tampa because I have a couple friends there, and I was like, ‘You know what? I’ve been in Tampa a couple times, and I wouldn’t mind living there. Like, I could see myself choosing to live there life in the offseason,’ ” he said. “And then like two months later I got traded there.”

Versatility is a plus

Palacios is a New Yorker, attending the Berkeley Carroll prep school, then Towson (Maryland) University, which should make him a favorite of Rays radio announcer Andy Freed, a fellow alum.

A college shortstop, Palacios was moved to second after being a 2018 third-round pick by Cleveland. After missing 2019 because of right shoulder surgery and 2020 due to the COVID-19 shutdown, he started transitioning to the outfield.

He made his big-league debut with Cleveland in April 2022, playing in 54 games while going up and down. He started 2023 back at Triple A and wasn’t doing well (.217 average, .669 OPS). That led to being designated for assignment in June and acquired for cash by St. Louis. He did better there, at Triple-A Memphis (.299, .876) and with the Cardinals (.258, .823).

“It was pretty cool to be able to gain some versatility,” he said. “Being able to play multiple positions allows me to play (more) and help the team win.”

Youth movement

In trading Luke Raley to Seattle to get Jose Caballero to fill in at shortstop for Wander Franco (legal issues) and Taylor Walls (recovery from right hip surgery), the Rays saw Palacios as a younger option with more defensive versatility. Plus, Palacios still has an option to be sent down; Raley didn’t.

Like some of their returning young players, such as Jonathan Aranda and Mead, the Rays see Palacios as a guy who has a chance, with some reps, to get better.

Whether that opportunity comes at the beginning of the season, or he is the odd man out (if, for example, Harold Ramirez isn’t traded and fellow newcomer Jonny DeLuca makes the team) and starts at Triple A.

“He’s somebody that we’re confident is going to give a good at-bat from the left side, is going to put the ball in play, is going to swing at the right pitches and is perhaps growing into a little more impact,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said of Palacios.

“Those are really nice at-bats to have available to you. He moved to the outfield in Cleveland as a way to get a better opportunity to impact the major-league club, and still has the versatility to get back in the infield. And he has lots of energy.”

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