Rays new spring training strategy involves more time with a pillow

Kevin Kiermaier will be hunting down more sleep this spring. (Getty Images/Jason O. Watson)
Kevin Kiermaier will be hunting down more sleep this spring. (Getty Images/Jason O. Watson)

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier has established himself as the best defensive centerfielder around. His range is unparalleled, his instincts are unmatched and his catches look effortless. It’s clear he’s worked hard in order to earn his reputation.

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But this spring training Kiermaier will focus less on catching fly balls and more on catching some z’s. After doing some research, the Rays have decided to push back their morning spring training sessions by an hour. The change was made in order to make sure players get more sleep.

There you have it. Instead of starting practices at 9:30 a.m., the Rays will officially open camp each day at 10:30 a.m. It doesn’t seem like a major thing, but players who value their sleep will likely appreciate the later start.

The Rays are hardly the first team to employ this strategy. Last spring, the New York Yankees did the exact same thing. In fact, the Yankees morning practices started even later. Players didn’t have to report until 11:30 a.m.

In both instances, allowing players to get more sleep has been the major factor behind the decision. And as Marc Topkin’s tweet above points out, the Rays have studied the impact of sleep on their players.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Teams are willing to go to great lengths to find the next competitive advantage. Sometimes, that manifests itself in the form of a team hoarding 13 left-handed pitchers who all throw screwballs. Other times, it’s as simple as making sure their players get a good night’s rest.

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There’s a good chance that this bold, new strategy won’t greatly impact the club during the regular season. The Rays probably won’t win 101 games because their players got some more sleep during spring training.

But there’s no harm in testing it out. More sleep may not lead to a competitive advantage, but it should make the players happier. Having good morale while preparing for a long, grueling regular season has to be worth something, right?

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik