Hunter Renfroe, Rays outfielder, catches fly balls hit by teammates.

By Lily Belcher

The Tampa Bay Rays are back on the diamond after a three-month coronavirus shutdown sent players home. After initially benching spring Training mid-March, league officials and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) began talks on how an abbreviated season would look or if a season would be played at all.

The sometimes heated and public discussion dominated sports headlines across the country as players, such as Rays pitcher Blake Snell, boldly ranted on social media over salaries, rules and schedules. Until just a few weeks ago, the prospects of a 2020 season looked bleak.

On June 23, MLB and the MLBPA came to an agreement: baseball will return for an abbreviated 60-game season with prorated salaries. Fans were thrilled as many were growing weary of the back and forth and nothing but the TV replays of the 2008 pennant race.

However, their excitement was not reciprocated by popular veterans, such as pitcher and ex-Rays player David Price, who has opted out of the season, saying it is “in the best interest for my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season.” The Tampa Bay Rays remain fully staffed as no one opted out of the season.

The Rays’ roster attended their first formal workout on July 3 at Tropicana Field. Players followed CDC guidelines by maintaining a safe distance and wearing masks as well as complying with MLB’s on-field restrictions.

“It went really well,” sixth-year manager Kevin Cash said in a virtual press conference after the first workout. “[It was] great to see the guys. You can tell most of the guys had been doing something to keep their bodies in shape.”

Spring training 2.0, as it’s being called, will continue to Opening Day, scheduled for July 24. The Rays will face their divisional opponents, the Toronto Blue Jays, at The Trop for the first pitch of this unconventional season.

The 66-day season has the Rays facing divisional challengers for 40 of the 60 games with another 20 games being against geographic counterparts from the National League East.

For more information on the season, roster and schedule, visit www.mlb.com/rays.