PORT CHARLOTTE — Kevin Cash stood in the entrance to the Tampa Bay spring locker room with a slight smile on his face as a reporter interviewed outfielder Austin Meadows.
The Rays’ manager was ready with his answer a short while later when asked about how he thought Meadows’ spring was going thus far.
“This camp so far? He hasn’t done anything,” Cash joked before Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays. “(He’s had) one hit and it was an infield single.”
Meadows didn’t do much to help his line in the Rays’ 9-5 win over Toronto. He did battle back from an 0-2 count to draw a leadoff walk in the first. He later came around to score on Hunter Renfroe’s single as part of a four-run inning.
The Rays batted around and Meadows ended in the first with a strikeout. He also struck out with one on and one out in the third and two outs in the fifth. He now has one hit in 17 at bats with eight strikeouts this spring.
Of course, Cash isn’t really worried about what kind of batting average his 24-year-old All-Star is carrying during games being played in early March.
Meadows, a former first round draft pick, enjoyed a breakout season in 2019. He batted .291 with 33 homers and 89 RBI while stealing 12 bases in his first season as a full time starter and first full year in Tampa Bay.
“Good for him to be in the situation where he can come in and relax and get ready for the season,” Cash said. “There’s a lot of firsts because usually he’s competing for a job or competing for playing time. I think he did enough last year where he’s earned the right to get his body and get his mind right.
“We’re not too worried or concerned about what he does before (Opening Day). We wanna keep him healthy.”
Meadows, who was acquired from the Pirates along with pitcher Tyler Glasnow, Wednesday’s starter, in a 2018 trade deadline deal for Chris Archer, also doesn’t appear to be too worried about his slow start.
“Obviously I’m in a different spot this year,” he said before the game on Wednesday morning. “Last year I felt like I was constantly trying to prove myself and show them I had what it takes to be a starter.
“Now this year I’m more established in an everyday role on the team. Obviously you want to continue to work on things and continue to get better in each and every aspect of the game.”
The one aspect of the game both Cash and Meadows highlighted was the young corner outfielder’s defense. Meadows worked in the offseason to improve his arm strength to make it more difficult to run on him.
“He made such big strides last year, defensively,” Cash said. “He knows there’s more that he can do defensively. He turned himself into a pretty good outfielder for us. We want to see that progress continue.
“(He’s) not working on anything specifically, but just continuing to challenge himself to find ways to cover more ground.”
While the Rays crowded outfield situation may be a concern for some on the roster, Meadows sees it as an opportunity to gain knowledge and improve his defense.
“I definitely want to work in the outfield and get quicker and continue to get better out there,” he said. “I want to pick the brains (of) guys like KK (Kevin Kiermaier), (Manuel) Margot and (Hunter) Renfroe and continue to jell with those guys and get to know them better.”
While it’s been a quiet spring at the plate, it was less so at home early last week when a large brush fire forced his wife to evacuate the house they are renting with teammate Brandon Lowe and his wife.
“That was scary, especially for my wife, Brandon’s wife and the dogs,” he recalled.” But we put that behind us. It was a little scary for the week and kind of threw everything off. But most importantly, they’re OK and everything is back to normal.”