The Tampa Bay Ray spent part of his offseason as a chauffeur for the ride-sharing company as a way to pass time.
“I just wanted to do it out of boredom,” Franklin said Thursday before getting in some informal work at the Rays spring training site. “I was sitting in my kitchen one Friday night and I thought it was something random and thought it would be really cool to just drive around my area and pick up people.”
This wasn’t the first winter the 25-year-old decided to play driver.
When Franklin started a couple of years ago, his first ride was almost his last.
“I got a speeding ticket my very first Uber trip,” Franklin said. “I was in Jacksonville, I picked up a couple from a bar and I wasn’t familiar with the speed limit over there. … I was like, wow this is a great start. I thought the cop would give me some leeway since it was my first Uber drive.”
The consummate professional he is, Franklin’s main concern at the time was his passengers’ comfort. According to Franklin, they didn’t mind too much, and were actually laughing at the situation.
On the baseball field, Franklin is a middle infielder and corner outfielder, but just what kind of Uber driver is Franklin?
He’s a full-service driver, who provides water, tissues or gum to his passengers in need. And despite these services, he still somehow only had a 4.8 rating.
“I don’t know who would’ve given me a bad rating. I call BS on that one,” Franklin said. “I wish they could tell you who gave you what rating. I haven’t given anyone a hard time.”
Franklin says no passengers have recognized him, except for the one time he randomly picked up one of his friends in Downtown Orlando.
He hopes to get noticed a little more than that during spring training. Last season he split time between the Rays and Triple-A Durham. With Tampa Bay, Franklin played 60 games at six different positions while hitting .270 and driving in 26 runs.
His do-it-all attitude as an Uber driver and baseball player is what could get him a roster spot in April.
Logan Morrison reported to camp Thursday, returning to the Rays after dealing with a wrist injury and testing free agency this offseason.
Morrison and the Rays agreed to a one-year, $2.5-million deal. He is expected to play first base and some designated hitting as well.
“LoMo, we all know his personality. He has a strong presence in the clubhouse,” manager Kevin Cash said.
The 29-year-old had a .100 batting average after April ended last season before hitting .351 in May and finishing the season with a .238 average to go with 14 home runs and 43 RBI.
“I’m going to try to improve my career numbers in April, and keep the May ones where they’re at,” Morrison said. “My dog’s name is Stella Mae. So I need to get another dog and throw an April in there somewhere.”
DRILL BABY DRILL
Mallex Smith spent his morning doing bunting drills. Smith, who is recovering from an oblique injury, is considered one of the fastest players in baseball, could potentially use that speed and bunting skills as a way to grab a roster spot.
Pitcher Jose De Leon didn’t participate in bullpen sessions on Wednesday due to what manager Kevin Cash called mid-back tightness. De Leon threw on flat ground Thursday, a sign that he is close to returning. Cash didn’t seem to think the injury was all that serious.
JUST THE TWO OF US
Position players aren’t required to report to camp until today, but 21 of 23 Rays have already checked in. The only two we’re still waiting on is Rickie Weeks Jr. and Evan Longoria.
The Rays will host an appreciation day for spring training season ticket holders on Sunday following the first full-squad workouts. Fans will have a chance to meet and take pictures with Danny Farquhar, Daniel Robertson, Erasmo Ramirez and Chase Whitley.
NEW FACES ON TV
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported on Thursday that Fox Sports’ Rich Hollenberg will be departing after three seasons doing pre- and post-game coverage on the network. Fox Sports also announced on Thursday that Alex Corddry will be taking over for Todd Kalas, who left this winter to accept a play-by-play job with the Houston Astros.