By Amanda Baxter
The Tampa Bay Rays started their spring training at Charlotte Sports Park stadium in Port Charlotte, Florida.
“We are excited to welcome back fans to Tropicana Field for the 2021 season,” Rays president Matt Silverman to Baynews9. “Although capacity will be limited to start, we are hopeful that conditions will continue to improve, allowing for more fans to join us as the season progresses.”
In 2020, the Rays won the American League, which consists of fifteen teams. This progressed them to the World Series against the National League champion, The Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rays were defeated 4-2 in the best of seven-game series from Oct. 20 to Oct. 27. All six games were played in Arlington, Texas, due to COVID-19.
Typically, the world series’s home-field advantages are determined by an All-Star game between the American League and National League. This game is played midway through the regular season and serves as a break for those not selected for the All-Star game, made up of the best 32 players. The team representing the winning league of the All-Star game hosts games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home. The league that lost the All-Star game plays games 3,4, and 5 at home. Given a best of seven series, games 5, 6 and 7 will only be played if necessary to determine a winner.
COVID-19 played a role in the 2020 season and is continuing to impact the upcoming season.
According to Bay News 9, Home games in April will be limited to 9,000 people, with fans socially distanced in seating pods of up to six people.
“We still have decisions left to make,” manager Kevin Cash told the Tampa Bay Times.
According to CBS, The team can repeat last season’s success but will be difficult with the loss of two of their top pitchers. Blake Snell was traded to the San Diego Padres, and Charlie Morton signed with the Atlanta Braves during free agency.
In addition, the Rays traded Nate Lowe and Aaron Slegers. However, they re-signed their starting catcher, Mike Zunino, and other experienced returning pitchers, including Rich Hill, Chris Archer, and Michael Wacha, who helped lead the team to success last season.
The Rays regular-season games will start on April 1 through 3 against the Miami Marlins, away. Following that, the team will compete against the Boston Red Sox from April 5 through 7. The Rays home opener will be against the New York Yankees on April 9 as they take their home field for seven consecutive days following.
Fans and players are eager to return to play and move on after delays due to the pandemic.
“Players rejected a proposal by teams to delay Opening Day to April 28 and cut each team’s schedule from 162 games to 154. Spring training workouts are scheduled to start next Wednesday,“ Tampa Bay 10 News said.
Spring training games for the Rays are underway as the team moves forward into the preseason while training for the upcoming games.