Rays send top prospect Junior Caminero to minors

PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays officials are quite confident Junior Caminero eventually will be an impact player in the big leagues.

But they seem certain the 20-year-old infielder is not ready yet, optioning him to the minor leagues on Monday.

Caminero was surprisingly summoned to the majors in September after the Rays lost several key players to injuries, making an unusual jump from Double A. He went 8-for-34 (.235) in seven games after a stellar performance at High A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery, hitting .324 with 31 home runs, 94 RBIs and a .976 OPS.

But with established veterans filling three infield spots and DH, and slick-fielding Jose Caballero acquired from Seattle to fill in at shortstop (with Taylor Walls recovering from hip surgery and Wander Franco’s future uncertain due to legal issues in the Dominican Republic), there was no place at this time for Caminero.

“Junior’s potential is evident, and he’s had a good camp,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said. “We leave Port Charlotte in 12 days, and we’ve got to get our accomplished major-league infielders the at-bats they need to be ready. Junior also needs regular work for his season, which we’re excited to see.”

While Caminero’s offensive numbers have stood out, he has limited pro experience, playing in only 222 minor-league games, with 81 at Double A and none at Triple A. And it seems clear he needs to improve his defense, having played all four infield positions with most of his time at third base, where he seems best suited.

Caminero, ranked among the top three-four prospects in the game, is expected to open the season at Triple-A Durham. He was one of the stars of the show as the Rays spent the weekend playing exhibitions in his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The Rays also sent down their second-highest ranked prospect, Carson Williams, a 20-year-old smooth-fielding shortstop, who seems likely headed to Double A.

In other moves announced after Monday’s game, which reduced the camp roster to 58 (including two on the injured list):

Optioned to the minors: RHP Yoniel Curet, INF/OF Greg Jones, INF Austin Shenton

Reassigned to minor-league camp: OF Ruben Cardenas, C Logan Driscoll, OF Niko Hulsizer, LHP Antonio Jimenez, RHP Enmanuel Mejia, OF Kameron Misner, INF Tanner Murray, OF Tristan Peters

Eflin gets his work in

Expected opening-day starter Zach Eflin had a rough box score line — eight runs allowed (four earned) on eight hits, including two homers, while throwing 63 pitches over four innings — with some shaky defense behind him.

But he felt good about the work he did.

“The two things I think about in spring are health and volume,” he said. “I threw a lot of pitches that I don’t normally throw in certain counts, just trying to continue learning the craft. But I felt good, got four (innings) in and look forward to the next one.”

Eflin was most pleased with the curveball, which he has been working on: “It’s nice to get it back to where it was last year.”

Game details: Blue Jays 9, Rays 2

With part of the team returning Sunday night from the trip to the Dominican Republic, the Rays (4-10-2) put on a sloppy show, including five errors (their most in a spring game since 2007) and several other misplays. “We’ve got to do a little bit better job of securing the baseball,” manager Kevin Cash said. ... Shenton had the worst day, making three errors at third base and getting picked off second. ... Yandy Diaz went 2-for-3.


Cash said outfielder Josh Lowe (hip inflammation) is doing better but is still likely a week away from resuming game action. ... There was no update on outfielder Jonny DeLuca, who sustained a broken hand Sunday and is expected to miss four-six weeks. ... ESPN+ will stream Saturday’s spring breakout prospects game against the Twins, which is being televised by Bally Sports Sun.

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