After a 2011 season riddled by injury, Rays infielder Matt Mangini is healthy and the owner of a re-tooled swing as he tries to win a spot on the Opening Day roster coming out of spring training.
"I'm good to go," said Mangini who had been working out for several weeks at Tropicana Field before heading to the Rays spring training facility in Port Charlotte, FL.
Mangini battled quad injuries and a concussion last year before being released by the Seattle Mariners in August, the same team that drafted him in the first round of the 2007 June Amateur Draft.
After a frustrating and disappointing season, he spent the off-season trying to get healthy and working on getting his swing back.
"I took about four weeks off. I got released in August and I got over my concussion stuff. I just got back to it. I wanted to put some weight back on and get strong again. I just let the legs heal up, because I was battling those quad injuries," said Mangini when asked about his off-season workout routine.
The 26-year-old Mangini, who lives in North Carolina during the off-season, spent time this winter working with Clay Counsil, a former coach in the West Raleigh League, who became an instant celebrity of sorts after pitching to Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton during his incredible performance in the 2008 Home Run Derby. According to Mangini, after working with Counsil, his swing is now "fixed".
While Mangini will likely start the season at AAA Durham, he figures to be called into action if the Rays' worst nightmare were to come to fruition - an injury to third baseman Evan Longoria.
Mangini has played both corner infield positions in his five year minor league career, logging 383 games at third and 57 at first, and also provides an insurance policy for first baseman Carlos Pena as well.
|Mangini signing for fans at Rays Fan Fest last month at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.|
The left-handed swinging Mangini has already become familiar with his potential new home park and comes into Rays' camp well-acquainted with players and staff members in the organization.
"I went down to Tropicana early for like the last two weeks of workouts to just kind of meet some of the staff and meet some of the guys. I enjoyed it. We got to hit on the field and workout there and do some of the training stuff there as well."
He has also become acquainted with the Rays' fanbase having recently participated in Rays Fan Fest last month.
"That was awesome. It was good to see. It's nice to see the support from fans. It was a cool environment there."
Mangini, who had his best minor league season in 2010 when he .313 with 18 home runs, 31 doubles and 61 runs batted in for the AAA Tacoma Rainers, also spent some time with his father this off-season sharing one of his new-found passions - cigars.
"We just kind of smoke some cigars, catch up, chit-chat. We go to a couple of places in the Monroe County area and relax and catch up. It's a good social thing," said Mangini.
Mangini is one unfortunate injury away from getting another shot at the major leagues. He last played there in 2010 with the Mariners where he got 41 plate appearances and hit .211 in 11 games.
Should the opportunity arise again for Mangini, he may get the chance to light up a cigar in the Rays clubhouse after a victory as part of one of the tightest-knit clubhouses in the game. After having already bonded some with his new teammates - like so many before him - he is impressed with the culture of the Rays'locker room.
"All of the guys seem to be loose and having fun. It's a pretty good environment. I think I'm going to like it here."
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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