First reviews on Rays’ new turf? Slower, different, awesome-looking

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays’ first game experience with their new Shaw Sports turf yielded two prevalent opinions: It looked better than what they had previously, and it played differently.

“Extremely different,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

Most notably, the new surface, which has coconut husk backfill rather than rubber pellets, plays slower and provides fewer unexpected bounces and more natural grass-like reactions.

“Much, I feel like, truer hops and stuff like that,” Lowe said. “We’re not getting weird spin off the ground balls in the infield. So, it’s definitely different and going to take a little bit of an adjustment. But I feel like it’s made it nothing but — I don’t want to say easier on us — but more true.

”So, more of what we expect and what we’re anticipating as something that we’ve done for as long as we have. So, it’s a more true playing surface, I feel like. It’s been good so far. … So still early and trying to see how it looks and how it plays, but as of right now there’s nothing negative about it.”

Manager Kevin Cash said he expects that with time the turf will play faster as the blades get matted down.

“I really think it’ll be pretty seamless after the first couple of weeks,” he said.

As for the striped look of a mowed field, which the Rays arranged by alternating two different shades of green? “Awesome,” Cash said.

Roster still not set

Decisions are expected sometime Wednesday for the final spots on the 26-man, opening-day roster. Alex Jackson is the leading internal candidate for the backup catcher job, Austin Shenton for the reserve lefty-hitting infield spot. But the Rays are at least looking at external options.

Discussions also are ongoing regarding the status of pitchers Burch Smith and Naoyuki Uwasawa, given interest in both from other teams via their assignment clauses. The Rays would have to add Smith to the active roster to keep him and don’t have room. They could keep Uwasawa by adding him to the 40-man roster and optioning him to Triple A.

Pitchers Taj Bradley (pec strain) and Shane Baz (oblique) were placed on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to Monday. The Rays are still waiting on resolution with Major League Baseball to remove Wander Franco from their 40-man roster and place him on either administrative leave (with pay) or the restricted list (without).

Pitching in

Ryan Pepiot had a third straight strong outing and Jake Odorizzi made his first game appearance since October 2022, as the Rays finished the spring with a 3-3 tie against Detroit and an 11-16-3 record.

Pepiot, acquired from the Dodgers in the Tyler Glasnow trade, allowed two hits and a walk over six innings while striking out eight. “He’s got to be feeling really good about himself,” Cash said. “That’s really encouraging the way he’s thrown the ball, the strike-throwing, the way he’s mixing his pitches.”

Odorizzi, who spent 2023 rehabbing from shoulder surgery and signed a minor-league deal on March 15, was pleased with his three-inning outing in terms of pitch feel, shape and execution (including a new sweeper), with the expectation he’ll add some velocity to a fastball that clocked 89-90 mph. He also had to adjust to the pitch clock and had issues with the PitchCom device.

“It was good, familiar, a little rusty obviously,” he said, “I was pretty happy overall … It was good to be back out there again. … It was fun.”

Odorizzi, 33, said he needs at least one more start to be ready and would talk with Rays officials about the opportunity to stay with them or to seek a big-league job elsewhere.


Yandy Diaz hit his fourth spring homer and Brandon Lowe his third. … Both the Rays and Blue Jays will hold workouts at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. ... In addition to the new turf, the Rays could have five position players on their roster with limited experience playing at the Trop: Jose Caballero, Jackson, Richie Palacios, Amed Rosario and Shenton.

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