06/11/10 7:13 PM ET
O'Conner signs, excited to get started
Former high school shortstop making transition to catcher
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
O'Conner, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound catcher from Cowan High School in Muncie, Ind., was at Tropicana Field with his family Friday night and appeared excited about joining the Rays.
As for the highlight of the day, O'Conner didn't hesitate to say it was the people he got to meet, which included Rays players, manager Joe Maddon and senior advisor Don Zimmer.
"They just told me good luck and kind of how it's going to be like down in the Minors," O'Conner said.
O'Conner was chosen at No. 31, 14 picks after the club selected prep outfielder Josh Sale with its first selection Monday, and 11 picks before the club selected prep outfielder Drew Vettleson with the 42nd pick.
The Rays received the 31st pick as compensation for not being able to sign LeVon Washington, their No. 1 pick and the 30th overall pick of the 2009 Draft.
"He is essentially a high school shortstop who started catching this year," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said of O'Conner. "So what you have is you have a kid with a plus arm, plus raw power, and we think he's going to be able to make that transition to catcher. ... We don't think it's going to be a tough transition for him. He's a kid who wants to catch."
O'Conner is excited to start learning how to play the position well. He'll likely begin playing for the Rays' Gulf Coast League affiliate.
"I'm really excited about that," O'Conner said. "From what they've said, most everybody on their staff knows about catching, even if they're the hitting guys. And I'm just excited about getting some instruction. The more and more I get back there, the more I get comfortable."
O'Conner is the first catcher selected by Tampa Bay in the first round. He hit .470 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs in 66 at-bats with 15 stolen bases his senior season. He had committed to play baseball at the University of Arkansas.
When asked about why he signed so quickly, O'Conner didn't hesitate.
"I want to play," he said. "I want to get down here as soon as I can and play."
Bartlett getting close to rejoining club
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jason Bartlett continues to progress from his right hamstring pull, and there's a good chance the shortstop will return by the first game of the Rays-Braves series Tuesday.
Among the matters to settle before Bartlett returns is whether he will see any action in Minor League games. If he does, those games could come this weekend.
Meanwhile, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he would be facing a tough decision to make regarding which player goes to Triple-A Durham to make room for Bartlett.
"It's a very tough decision. I mean the way everybody's been working right now, it's kind of fun," Maddon said. "You saw the game [Thursday]. Even putting the DH in the game, we have all these different options even as the game was concluding. Everyone has been involved and everyone has been doing a good job, so it's going to be a tough decision."
Last day to vote at The Trop
ST. PETERSBURG -- Want to see some Rays in the American League lineup for this year's All-Star Game in Anaheim? Saturday will be the last day fans can cast their votes at Tropicana Field. Voting will be online only on MLB.com after Saturday night.
Ballots are handed out during the games, so fans have Friday night and Saturday to try to push along the voting in favor of their favorite Rays.
Rays on the runway
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' wives will host the Rays on the Runway fashion show on June 24 at Tampa's Nordstrom International Plaza. Doors will open at 7 p.m. ET. All proceeds will benefit the Children's Dream Fund.
Each player in attendance will be paired with their significant other, or a child from the Children's Dream Fund, and will model the latest spring and summer fashions from Nordstrom. The event will also include a raffle fundraiser, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
The following players and coaches are scheduled to attend: Jason Bartlett, Reid Brignac, Lance Cormier, Wade Davis, Matt Garza, John Jaso, Evan Longoria, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Niemann, Carlos Pena, Bobby Ramos, Sean Rodriguez, Derek Shelton, Kelly Shoppach, James Shields, Dan Wheeler and Ben Zobrist.
By purchasing a ticket, fans receive access to mingle with players before and after the show. Tickets for adults are $75 in advance and $100 at the door, while tickets for children are $50 in advance or at the door. To pre-purchase tickets or for more information, visit childrensdreamfund.org/events. For more information on sponsorships, contact Pam Raml at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.