by Steve Carney / 620 WDAE
Pitchers and catchers wrapped up their final practice before the first full-squad workout, and manager Joe Maddon was quick to point out one pitcher who has caught his eye in the first week of camp.
"I thought Heath Bell looks really good," the Rays manager admitted. "Again, I'm not evaluating anything except that he's throwing the ball easily and well. He looks like he's in pretty good shape also, so that's really exciting. This is a guy who has really done some great work for his entire career."
The right-hander says he believes he's in a good place both mentally and physically here in Port Charlotte.
"I think the last two years I was battling with some demons, and this year those demons are past me," Bell said. "I'm just coming in here and trying to be Heath Bell and just trying to pitch."
The addition of Bell is just one reason reliever Joel Peralta believes Tampa Bay could have the best bullpen staff in the entire league.
"The bullpen has gotten even better than before with Bell, [Grant] Balfour and [Juan Carlos] Oviedo," the veteran set-up reliever explained. "If we perform the way we should, I think we're going to be the best bullpen in the league."
REPORT DAY FOR POSITION PLAYERS: Wednesday was also the team's report day for position players to camp, though just two players had not reported to camp early: shortstop Yunel Escobar and minor-league infielder Wilson Betemit. Neither reported before the end of practice, though the team expects both to be in camp and ready to practice Thursday.
FOR THURSDAY: The Rays will hold their first full-squad practice on the back fields at Charlotte Sports Park. Start time has been moved back to 10:00 in order to accomodate the training staff to perform physicals on the players. The players will have a team meeting on the field at 10:00, commence stretching at 10:30 and work out for about two hours.
Listen to Wednesday's inteviews with Joe Maddon, Heath Bell, and Joel Peralta below!