Rays’ Randy Arozarena seeks a stronger finish

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Move over pitchers.

There’s company in the conversation for endurance, durability, and even survival. Just asked Rays’ outfielder Randy Arozarena and, these days, he is the first to author a new vision.

Since his arrival in Tropicana Field for the pandemic-shorten 2020 season, his yearly production dropped. From that shortened season of 2020, where he hit .281 (18-for-64 and a monster post-season), during the subsequent two seasons his production, late in the season, declined dramatically.

A principal reason, he admits, is the nature of an arduous baseball season. With games nearly every day, the demands of travel and different starting times, atrophy of the body, and the mental aspects of the game, all play powerfully in a player’s daily and off-season preparation.

For Arozarena, the protracted season acted heavily into a drop in production and now is the time to address the issue.

The reason Arozarena explained for such a decrease to reporters earlier this spring in the Rays clubhouse here is strength. While the baseball season is a marathon with grinding days and grueling weeks, the nature of deterioration is real. A corresponding decline in production, Arozarena argued, remained a complement to physical decline. For that reason, he took the off-season seriously and added strength and muscle to his physical body.

In that way, the hope is to maintain strong months of August and September and continue that push into a potential post-season, he explained.

“My main focus in the off-season was to get stronger,” he said through an interpreter. “I feel like last year in the second half I lost some weight. In spring training now, I wanted to come ready to play.”

Since that 2020 season, Arozarena’s production went south. In 2022, he hit .263 in 153 games but dropped to .254 last season.

One factor could be a level-off in multi-hit games. In 2023, Arozarena who will be 29 years old on Feb. 28, started strong. In April, he had 11 multi-hit games and maintained a .300 batting average through the opening two months of the season. After going 0-3 in a game against the Chicago White Sox on May 29, he fell under .300 and remained there for the remainder of the season.

For the subsequent months, his multi-games dropped. For June, he had six such games, five in July, five in August, and three in September.

“Whatever happened last season is behind me,” he said. “I don’t want to blame anything, like on my participation in the home-run derby or my swing. If I keep working hard, the numbers will be there at the end of the year.”

Listed at 5-11 and 185 pounds, Arozarena clearly added weight. His arms reflect a strenuous off-season workout regimen, and he hopes to translate this commitment into production.

“I just wanted to bulk up for endurance,” he said. “Every year in the second half, I tend to lose weight about five to 10 pounds. I want to keep that weight on and have more endurance and strength.”

Turn back the clock.

In the 2020 post-season, Arozarena was on fire. Capturing the MVP in the ALCS against Houston, he hit .367 and for the 18 post-season games, he hammered 10 home runs. Clearly, the focus now is to regain that level of production late in the season and provide an essential catalyst to post-season glory.

A heightened commitment by Arozarena and the drive to be an important contributor at the most important time of the season did not go unnoticed.

“From what I saw of Randy, he does look good,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He did that last year, too. He kind of bulked up a little bit. I applaud him for recognizing in the second half he would like to finish a little bit stronger. If his body feels better than last year, that’s what it will take. I’m happy he did that.”

Elsewhere … with the reality of not having Wander Franco anytime soon or ever, the Rays attempted to solidify the shortstop spot. With returning Taylor Walls rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn labrum last October and uncertain for opening day, the Rays signed 28-year-old Amed Rosario to a one-year deal for a reported $1.5 million. He can earn an additional $500,000 through incentives. Splitting last season between Cleveland and the Los Angeles Dodgers, he combined for a .263 batting average in 142 games. That included 25 doubles and 58 RBIs. … The Rays also inked infielder Yu Chang to a minor league deal. … If he has a break-out spring, 20-year-old Junior Caminero could earn the shortstop job. On the opening day of full-squad drills, manager Kevin Cash put Caminero in a hitting group with Harold Ramirez and Randy Arozarena and reported his objective would see how Caminero reacted, competitively, to placement within a such veteran group. … the Rays announced the TV schedule for spring games. These include 10 contests and begin on Sunday when Tampa Bay hosts Detroit. The final pre-season TV game is slated for Saturday, March 23 against Baltimore. The games will air on Bally Sports Sun.

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