Rays sign 16-year-old lefty from Czech Republic

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It remains to be seen whether the Rays are interested in giving B.J. Upton a long-term contract, but Tampa Bay did sign Stepan Havlicek over the weekend.
Who is that, you ask? Well, he’s a 16-year-old left-hander who pitched for the Czech Republic’s junior national team and now he’s the first European player ever signed by the Rays. Here’s a report on Havlicek from the scout who found him, John Gilmore:

Stepan has a loose, quick arm with good follow through. His fastball has run and his curveball depth. For a young player, he has great control and goes right after hitters.

Havlicek is listed by the Rays as 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, and he’s expected to begin his pro career this summer in the MLB-run Australia Academy. So for all you keeper-league fantasy owners out there, get him on your cheat sheets for 2015
If things go well for Havlicek he’ll become just the sixth Czech-born player in MLB history and the first since the 1960s, but believe it or not things will need to go really well for him to become the country’s best player. Elmer Valo went to high school in Pennsylvania and played most of his 20-year career for the Philadelphia A’s, but he was born in Ribnik, Czechoslovakia in 1921 and went on to collect 1,420 hits with a juicy .398 on-base percentage as a big leaguer from 1940-1961.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.