Appy notes: Unroe undaunted by dual role

Rays prospect splitting his time between shortstop and second base

A second-round pick in 2013, Riley Unroe is hitting .312 with nine extra-base hits in 23 games. (Cliff Welch/

By Bob Sutton / Special to | July 17, 2014 10:00 AM ET

Riley Unroe is becoming accustomed to multiple roles with the Princeton Rays. Playing three days as a shortstop and then three games as a second baseman is part of the plan. It's a routine that could increase his value as he makes his way through the Tampa Bay organization.

"It can be a challenge, but I have to get comfortable at both spots," said Unroe, a second-round pick in 2013.

Improving defensively is one of the priorities for the 18-year-old. Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer said Unroe's adapting to the dual roles.

"He's going to split it pretty much right now," Sheaffer said. "I think it will be good for his development."

Unroe said he considers himself a shortstop, so the move to the right side of the infield tends to cause the biggest adjustment. He went the first 17 games of the Appalachian League season without an error.

The bat has been working for Unroe, who through July 15 was one of six players in the league with a .300 or better batting average and at least nine extra-base hits.

Ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the Rays organization, Unroe said he pushed to make a full-season roster this year and, when that didn't happen, continued to strive to make an impression in extended spring training. He's one of several high Draft selections on the Princeton roster, joining 2013 draftees catcher Nick Ciuffo (first round) and outfielder Thomas Milone (third round).

"We're all buddies and hopefully we're moving along together," Unroe said.

Unroe said he benefitted from his father's input, with former big leaguer Tim Unroe offering advice along the way. The elder Unroe, though, didn't go through the Draft ordeal as it's done today.

"He never had to fill out a questionnaire," Riley Unroe said. "It's a little different experience for both of us."

Unroe chose to bypass a scholarship to Southern California in order to sign with the Rays.

"When I was drafted, [scouting director] R.J. Harrison told me it was going to be a process," Unroe said.

Part of that process meant restructuring off-field workouts. Unroe said he took weight-training so seriously in high school -- in part because he played wide receiver on the football team -- that he might have been too bulked up when he arrived in the Gulf Coast League a year ago.

"Just had to get back into baseball lifting," he said.

That's another area of versatility that's important, his manager said.

"You have to maintain your flexibility," Sheaffer said. "He's the type of player who's going to soon play seven days a week -- just not here right now."

In brief

Going places? The Johnson City Cardinals were briefly abandoned after a game in Greeneville, Tenn., when their bus driver walked off the job, leaving players and staff in the parking lot. Pitcher Ian McKinney and some of his teammates drew attention to the matter by sending out tweets during the predicament. "Our bus driver just left us," McKinney said later. "It was very surprising. I was in shock." The bus company's owner arrived some four hours later to take the team home, and the next morning the Cards had one of their longest treks to Burlington, N.C., where in the finale of a three-game set they snapped a seven-game losing streak.

Moon shots: Burlington Royals outfielder Logan Moon produced a total of two home runs during a four-year college career that included stops at Central Arkansas and Missouri Southern State. So when the sixth-round pick went deep twice during a three-inning span July 13 in a romp against Johnson City, it turned heads. "I caught them well," Moon said of the blasts. "I've changed since [early days of college]. I've gotten stronger."

Errors of their ways: The Kingsport Mets were charged with eight errors July 7 in a 16-11 victory against the visiting Pulaski Mariners. In their next five games, the Mets had a total of eight errors combined, but they went 2-3 in those outings.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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