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Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day Countdown: 18 days to go

Ben Zobrist and a former Rookie of the Year have donned the 18 for the Rays...also Julio Franco for one at bat

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

There are 18 days until Opening Day.

That number has been worn by a few Rays, one in particular held onto the jersey for nine years.

  • Julio Franco (1999)
  • Ben Grieve (2001-2003)
  • Nick Green (2005-2006)
  • Ben Zobrist (2006-2014)
  • Peter Bourjos (2017)

Julio Franco signed as a free agent prior to the 1999 season at the age of 40. He would spend the season in Triple-A, but received a promotion in September, playing in one game for the Rays, recording one plate appearance in which he struck out. Amazingly, Franco would go on to play in the majors through the 2007 season and independently through 2014, playing his last game at the age of 55.

Ben Grieve would take over next as the Rays acquired the former AL Rookie of the Year following the 2000 season. He was expected to provided the Rays with a potent bat in the corner outfield, which he did to an extent. However, after three years of trending downward performance, Grieve was let go in 2003 after accruing a total of 2.2 fWAR and hitting .254/.364/.399 with 34 HR over 344 games.

After Ben Grieve came and went, soon after, so did Nick Green as he spent the 2005-2006 seasons with the Rays.

Following Nick Green’s departure, the Rays acquired a SS prospect, Ben Zobrist, from the Houston Astros. He would make his Major League debut shortly after his acquisition and struggled mightily in his part-time role. In 2007, he was given the opportunity to be the team’s starting short stop, but was unable to take advantage.

During the 2008 season, he began to show his value in another way as did whatever he needed to in order to help the Rays as they were in their first ever playoff hunt.

This continued in 2009, and ultimately he forced his way into the starting lineup every day, playing whatever position was needed that given day. He would be dubbed Zorrilla and go on to be one of the best players in the majors for years to come.

Zobrist would be traded following the 2014 season, ending his nine year tenure with the team.

The jersey would not be worn again until Peter Bourjos took over in 2017 and provided the Rays with a solid season.

Check back tomorrow as the countdown continues.