Notes: Great expectations for Navarro
Catcher reportedly in good shape, ready to handle young staff
ST. PETERSBURG -- After jumping out to a franchise-best 4-0 start to Spring Training, manager Joe Maddon says the difference in this year's camp can be summed up in one word: energy. And perhaps no one is more excited to simply play baseball than Dioner Navarro.
Although the catcher reported to camp late as a result of a family emergency, he appears to have lost weight and is in good spirits.
After serving as designated hitter in his first spring appearance, Navarro made his first start behind the plate Monday, playing five innings and going 1-for-3 at the plate. Maddon praised Navarro's hustle, particularly in running to first after hitting a ground ball.
"He's a good baserunner, I'm telling you," said Maddon. "He's aggressive and he's not afraid to take the chance."
While Navarro admits he is not particularly quick or agile, he credits his experience as a catcher for his newfound baserunning success.
"When you catch, you have to see the whole field, and Ithink that carries over to baserunning," Navarro said.
The Rays are counting on Navarro's view of the field to translate into more than solid offense. With a young pitching staff this season, the catcher's defensive development is critical.
"Navi came to camp with a great attitude and in great shape," said Maddon, a former catcher himself. "He just needs to gain confidence with game-calling. It takes time to nurture."
For now the Rays will continue to ease the catcher's arm back slowly. Maddon said the team will stay with a day-on, day-off schedule for Navarro, and stressed the importance of getting him comfortable.
"He just needs to get out there and play a little bit of catch with these guys," said Maddon. "There needs to come a time where you know exactly what they're thinking."
Like his baserunning, Navarro knows making the physical adjustments to catching will come in time.
"I have to take that first step and work harder than everybody else," said Navarro, who began his offseason workouts during the second week of November. "And that's what I think makes me better."
Why can't we be friends? Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire wasted no time in asking about former Twins players Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza when talking with the media before Tuesday's Twins-Rays matchup. The Nov. 28 trade sent Bartlett, Garza and Minor League pitcher Eduardo Morlan to the Rays in exchange for outfielders Delmon Young and Jason Pridie and infielder Brendan Harris.
Gardenhire said he was pleased to hear of Bartlett's progress and also reflected on the move to give up a quality starter in Garza.
"We projected him as a top-of-the-lineup, top-of-the-rotation guy, and you don't give up players like that very often," Gardenhire said.
Garza started last season at Triple-A Rochester before being called up on June 29. The right-hander led all American League rookies with a 3.69 ERA, and is currently listed third in the Rays' rotation, behind Scott Kazmir and James Shields.
Bartlett is listed as the Rays' starting shortstop, and should add solid defense and speed to Tampa Bay's lineup. Last season, Bartlett led Minnesota with 23 stolen bases and has a .341 career on-base percentage in the Majors.
Gardenhire also commented on ex-Ray Young, praising the outfielder's work ethic and enthusiasm: "He's done all the work, really, really the whole package. He's willing to do just about anything we ask."
Injury update: David Price, the top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, threw to hitters Wednesday morning and is scheduled to make his Spring Training debut on Saturday against the Yankees at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla. Price has been reported healthy since experiencing initial arm stiffness last week. ... Lefty Brian Anderson, who is rehabbing from his second Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, is reportedly breezing through workouts and is also expected to make his Spring Training debut Saturday. The game will mark Anderson's first meaningful pitching appearance since June 2006. ... Maddon said he will continue to be cautious with Rocco Baldelli, as the outfielder will continue playing alternate days in the DH slot until further notice. ... Kazmir played catch Wednesday morning, throwing 25 pitches at 60 feet. Maddon says Kazmir is in Stage 3 of his rehab, and the plan will be to continue to stretch his arm out. ... Infielder Reid Brignac made his Spring Training debut on Wednesday, after breaking his toe last week. The shortstop is wearing a hard covering in his shoe, but is reported to be healthy.
Up next: The Rays will travel to Clearwater, Fla., to take on the Phillies on Thursday, in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Bright House Field. Shields is scheduled to start for the Rays, and he will be followed by Wade Davis, Andy Sonnanstine, Grant Balfour, Chad Orvella and Jae Kuk Ryu. Righty Troy Percival is also scheduled to make his first Spring Training appearance. Adam Eaton will start for the Phillies, with Chad Durbin, Joe Bisenius and J.C. Romero also expected to pitch.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.