PORT CHARLOTTE — LHP Jake McGee said he will no longer throw his cutter/slider this season, opting instead for the curveball he threw during much of his minor-league career.
“No more cutter/slider,” McGee said. “It wasn’t effective. It was too hard sometimes, didn’t have true movement.”
McGee said his cutter would often get in the 93-mph range, making the speed too close to that of his fastball on days when his fastball was less than 97 mph. Hitters sitting on his fastball were able to react to the slider.
His 12 to 6 curveball — “More like 1 to 5,” he said — should keep hitters off his fastball.
“I think everyone kind of knew I had to throw another pitch, but last year I was messing around with my old breaking ball, playing catch with it, but I didn’t want to break it out in the middle of the year,” McGee said. “The scouting reports say I throw 90 percent fastball. This way they can’t just sit on my fastball and they might miss the fastball more.”
The curveball served McGee well when he was a starter during his time in the minor leagues. But he put it away in 2010 when he was moved to the bullpen at Triple-A Durham.
“They wanted more of a slider movement when I went to the bullpen,” McGee said. “(The slider) was working here and there, but it wasn’t consistent enough. When I was throwing my curveball in the minor leagues it was good and consistent and I was throwing it for strikes.”
2B Ben Zobrist missed his second day of workouts Friday because of a sore lower back but said his back felt much better.
“I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m optimistic I’ll be back next week.”
Fan Fest today
The autograph passes for today’s Fan Fest at Tropicana Field are sold out. Children 14 and under have access to the free autograph line. Major League Baseball alumni also will sign autographs for free.
Proceeds from the sale of the autograph passes will benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation and the ALS Association Florida Chapter.
Fan Fest is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking and admission is free.
Tony Clark, the first-year executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, and his staff made the Rays their first stop on their annual spring meetings with all of the MLB teams.
Clark said instant replay and the rule change concerning home plate collisions were among the items discussed. Clark said he hoped MLB would make a decision “sooner rather than later” on whether to institute the home plate collision rule this season.
RHPs Juan Carlos Oviedo and Juan Sandoval and IF Wilson Betemit continue to remain in the Dominican Republic while they await work visas.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he is not yet concerned with the time missed by the players. Oviedo is the only one of the three with a spot on the 25-man roster.
“I’m not disappointed, no,” Maddon said. “I would bet he’s been throwing on an equal basis of what we’re doing here. If we can get him here a couple of days before the games to get his feet on the ground, but I would bet that he’s been throwing enough that he’s not going to be far behind if he’s behind at all.”
The Rays worked on their bunt defense Friday.
“The biggest thing I want them to understand is to do simple better, so everything is as simple as possible,” Maddon said. “But do simple better.”
While the AL East teams do not bunt much, those in the National League do. The Rays visit Cincinnati during their first road trip of the season.
“What we’re doing right now is primarily for Cincinnati,” Maddon said.