Decoding Terms You’ll Hear During Spring Training
Rays pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Friday, Feb. 19, but players for other major league teams have already started reporting as of today. During Spring Training, the Rays play and practice at their facility in Port Charlotte, Florida, the home of the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State League (High-A). As Spring Training ramps up, there is a good chance fans are going to read and hear some unique terms thrown around. Split squads, extended Spring Training and non-roster invites are just a few examples. To help readers understand more of what goes into Spring Training, here are explanations of a few key terms.
Also referred to as the “active roster,” the 25-man is the group of players who play for the organization at the major-league level. The 25-man is not usually set until the end of Spring Training.
Sometimes referred to as the “expanded roster,” the 40-man is made up of all of the players in the organization who are signed to a major-league contract. This includes every player on the major league club, injured players on the 15-day disabled list, and minor league players who are signed to a major-league contract. One exception is if a player is out with injury for an extended period of time, and is put on the 60-day disabled list. In that case, their 40-man spot is open until they are active off of the disabled list, and teams are free to add another player to their 40-man roster. To remove a player from the 40-man, that player must be “designated for assignment” (DFA).
Click here to see the Rays current 40-man roster
Designated For Assignment
A player who is designated for assignment is removed from the team’s 40-man roster, after which the team can place the player on waivers within the first seven days after being designated for assignment, or the team has 10 days to trade the player, release the player, outright them to a minor league team, or return them to the 40-man roster. A player who is already in the minors, but on the 40-man, may be designated for assignment just to free up a 40-man roster spot.
A player who is on the 40-man and gets called up to the majors, but then sent back down to the minors uses one of their options. Teams can call up and send down a player multiple times in a season because they get three seasons of options to use on a player. Once a player has used their three option years, they must be kept on the 25-man roster, or they have to be placed on waivers and go unclaimed before they can go back down to the minors.
A player may attend major league Spring Training without being on the 40-man roster if they are classified as a non-roster invitee. Players who receive non-roster invites are generally top prospects or players close to the major league level who the team thinks need the experience around major league players, or veterans who signed a minor league contract with the chance to make the major league team in Spring Training. Some veterans may sign a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, but if they don’t make the team they would have the option to be released from their contract and try to sign on with another major league team.
Click here to see the Rays 2016 non-roster invitees
Teams sometimes schedule two games on the same day, so they split their roster into two squads and have them each play a game that day. This is done to get more players playing time, and to make sure the players are getting enough rest. These games count against the team’s Spring Training win-loss record as one game each.
Teams sometimes also play a game against themselves during Spring Training, where the team is split into two squads and they play each other. These games do not count against a team’s Spring Training record. Other games that would not count against a team’s Spring Training record include games against college teams, minor league teams, or B games, where two major league teams play a scrimmage.
Minor League Spring Training
Players who were not invited to the major league club’s Spring Training camp report to minor league Spring Training camp. Similar to major league Spring Training, they play Spring Training games, do drills and train, but in an environment where they get more focus than if they were all in one Spring Training camp with the major leaguers and non-roster invitees. The Rays have four minor league Spring Training teams for the four main levels of the minor leagues (Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A). Usually two teams will play home games and two teams will play away games each day during Spring Training. Players may be assigned to minor league Spring Training from the major league camp throughout Spring Training and as the major league spring schedule comes to a close if they aren’t going to make the 25-man roster.
Extended Spring Training
After major and minor league Spring Training camps conclude and those teams head to their respective cities to start the season, some players in the organization may not have been assigned to a team. Those players stay at the Spring Training facility for extended Spring Training. These are usually the youngest players in the organization, who will eventually be assigned to a rookie or short-season league, or veterans recovering from injuries.
Half of the major league teams play their Spring Training games in Arizona, which is referred to as the Cactus League. The Los Angeles Angels play in Tempe, Arizona, Colorado and San Francisco play in Scottsdale, Seattle and San Diego play in Peoria, the Chicago Cubs and Oakland play in Mesa, Cincinnati and Cleveland play in Goodyear, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers play in Glendale, Milwaukee plays in Phoenix, and Kansas City and Texas play in Surprise.
The other half of the major league teams play their Spring Training games in Florida, which is called the Grapefruit League. Atlanta plays in Lake Buena Vista, Baltimore plays in Sarasota, Boston and Minnesota play in Fort Myers, Detroit plays in Lakeland, Houston plays in Kissimmee, Miami and St. Louis play in Jupiter, the New York Mets play in Port St. Lucie, the New York Yankees play in Tampa, Philadelphia plays in Clearwater, Pittsburgh plays in Bradenton, Toronto plays in Dunedin and Washington plays in Viera.
Bulls and Rays 2016 Spring Training Key Dates
Feb. 19: Pitchers and catchers report
Feb. 21: First pitchers and catchers workout
Feb. 26: First full squad workout
March 2: First Spring Training game, Rays vs. Washington Nationals, 1:05 p.m.
April 3: MLB Opening Day, Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 4:05 p.m.
April 7: MiLB Opening Day, Bulls vs. Charlotte Knights, 6:05 p.m.