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Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day countdown: 23 days to go

Several stars have made the #23 one of the best jersey numbers in franchise history

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

There are now 23 days until Opening Day.

The number 23 in Tampa Bay Rays history as been donned by just five players, but they’re five of the more notable players throughout the team’s 20 year existence.

  • John Flaherty (1998)
  • Greg Vaughn (2000-2002)
  • Julio Lugo (2003-2006)
  • Carlos Pena (2007-2010, 2012)
  • Jake Odorizzi (2013-2017)

Flaherty was the inaugural catcher for the Rays on Opening Day in 1998, catching the first pitch in franchise history as Wilson Alvarez missed low and inside to Brian Hunter.

In 2000, Greg Vaughn came in as the team entered the Hit Show era. Vaughn would have an All-Star campaign that season, clubbing 28 HR and finishing with a 116 wRC+. His career would spiral following that season and he’d be released during spring training in 2003.

Julio Lugo would be picked up in May, 2003, following an injury to the Rays starting short stop, Rey Ordonez. Originally meant to be a stop gap to fill the void left by Ordonez, Lugo would take the starting short stop job while Ordonez’s season and career were ultimately over.

From 2003 until the time he was traded at the 2006 trade deadline, Lugo slashed .287/.350/.421 with a 105 wRC+, accruing a total of 13.9 fWAR. His last two home runs in a Rays uniform were historic as they both came in the same inning.

Carlos Pena picked up the number 23 for his breakout 2007 season in which he shattered the Rays record books, belting 46 HR. Over a four year span from 2007 to 2010, Pena would launch 144 long balls, helping to lead the Rays from basement dweller obscurity to perennial contender legibility.

In 2012, he returned after spending 2011 with the Chicago Cubs and proceeded to rock the house down at the Trop on Opening Day as he received a thunderous ovation in his first at-bat back with the team. He then would receive an even more thunderous ovation as he belted a grand slam during that at-bat (he would also hit a LOOOONG walk-off single to finish the day).

Jake Odorizzi picked up the number 23 after being acquired as part of the big James Shileds trade during the 2012-2013 off-season. After spending some time with the big league club during he 2013 season, Odorizzi would become a staple of consistency from 2014 to 2017, until being traded early this spring.

Check back tomorrow as the countdown continues.