Rays have reason to feel very much at home in Dominican Republic

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The Rays had plenty of reason to feel at home for Saturday’s exhibition game against the Red Sox.

First, because some of their Dominican players stayed at their family’s houses, such as top prospect Junior Caminero, who grew up a few blocks from Estadio Quisqueya.

“Thank God I even have the opportunity to be here,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “My family was waiting for me (when the team arrived Friday night). They’re very proud of me. They’re supporting me. They’re always going to be here. It’s something special for them as well as it is for me.”

Even better, Caminero got to to sleep in his own bed Friday night.

“Beautiful,” he said.

The 20-year-old infielder also had familiarity with the stadium facilities, as the Rays dressed in the first-base clubhouse, which is used by Escogido, the winter league team for whom he played.

One very notable difference — the normal red accents were covered up as the room was branded in Rays colors.

“It’s beautiful, especially because it’s all blue when normally it’s all red,” Caminero said before the 4-0 loss. “It’s good to see the opportunity to be here with the big-league team and have the opportunity to play here since I’ve been playing here multiple times.

“Playing with all this atmosphere, it’s going to be great. I’m here right now, and I still can’t believe it.”

Infielder Ronny Simon, who was MVP of the winter league playing for the Toros de Este, enjoyed the new look as well.

“It’s a dream come true being here, being able to be here with the big-league team, especially after the winter ball (time) that I spent here,” he said. “Hopefully, this is just one step closer to where I want to be.”

Manager Kevin Cash gave two of his Dominican coaches expanded duties, with field coordinator Tomas Francisco bringing out the lineup card and bullpen coach Jorge Moncada handling mound visits in the absence of pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who stayed back in Port Charlotte.

First things first

Dominican Hall of Famers and former Red Sox Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz handled first-pitch honors, so to balance things out two of the Rays’ Dominican players caught them: Amed Rosario and Jose Siri. “It was very impressive, very exciting, especially guys like that that are legends in this game, Hall of Famers,” Siri said, via Navarro. “It was a very special moment for me, and I was glad I was able to do it, and it was a lot of fun.”

Game details: Red Sox 4, Rays 0

Prospect Yoniel Curet, a 21-year-old from San Pedro de Macoris, started and put the Rays (4-8-2) in an early hole, loading the bases on a leadoff single and two walks, then allowing a two-run double. Cash said he figured Curet was understandably “a little amped up” and would be better for it, though Curet said he wasn’t nervous. … Non-roster right-hander Jacob Waguespack, who pitched better than his line in his first spring outing, worked three innings, allowing two hits and an unearned run. … Randy Arozarena was 0-for-3 and is now 0-for-17 for the spring. ... Siri provided the only offensive excitement, singling in the fifth, stealing second and advancing to third on a fly out. .... Attendance was 11,853, about 3,000 short of a sellout. ... Jonathan Aranda had two more hits and is now 8-for-20 (.400) for the spring.


Power in the interview room went out during Cash’s pregame media session, but after a slight pause he and Navarro opted to answer the remaining questions with reporters providing light with their cellphones. ... Cash basically no-commented on the one question he got about Wander Franco. The shortstop remains away from the team pending resolution of legal issues stemming from accusations of a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. A young fan sitting near the Rays dugout held a sign that read, in Spanish, “We want Wander Franco.” ... As for other international series games, MLB sold wearable sponsorships, as the Rays had a jersey patch for the Mercasid food service company and a helmet patch for Brava Lubricants, a motor oil company. ... Bench coach Rodney Linares had his 84-year-old father, Julio, a legendary 50-plus-year Astros adviser, in the clubhouse before the game. “It means a lot,” Linares said. “I wanted him to come around and meet the guys, meet Cash.”… Zack Littell and Tyler Alexander threw well in a sim game in Port Charlotte, and Burch Smith, sidelined last week with illness, had a good mound session, Cash said.

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