The first difference I’ve noticed between Florida and Arizona

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As the next nine days unfold I’ll be talking a lot about the differences between Florida and Arizona spring trainings. But for now I’ll give you a preliminary observation: the fact that all of the Arizona spring training complexes are located in the same major city is convenient as all hell, but also a bit of a drag. At least so far. Let me explain.

The drag: last year when I made it to my first stop — Port St. Lucie — the whole area seemed kind of Mets crazy. The hotel clerks were wearing Mets jerseys. The clerk at the liquor store (I was there for research purposes) was telling me which players had been in that evening. There was a vibe, man — apparent within the first six hours of landing — that we were all there for a singular purpose and that there was nothing going on but baseball.

Within six hours of landing in Phoenix and I merely felt like I was in a big city. The Angels complex is right outside my hotel door, but there aren’t Angels fans milling about my mountain bunker. The only surprise I received at the liquor store — again, conducting research — was that there were still Christmas gift packs of my house pour for sale (Arizona State University area, consider yourself to be on notice).

Maybe this is a silly observation given that I haven’t been to any parks yet — and maybe it’s more about my excitement level last year as I embarked on my first spring training trip — but there is less of a buzz in the air. This is a big sprawling city going about its business. That’s cool and that may very well lead to many unexpected wonders over the next few days, but there is something fun and weird about places like Port St. Lucie and Viera and Bradenton. Their parks are old and far apart, but if you’re making the trip there at this time of year, you’re doing it for only one purpose and everyone’s pretty giddy about it.

Maybe I’ll find some giddy later this morning. I’ll be sure to let you know.

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.