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Chris Archer, Evan Longoria star as Rays sweep Toronto Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays looked every bit like the first-place team they are Sunday, using a powerful offense and another dominant start by Chris Archer to earn a 5-1 win over the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

The fifth straight win ensures that the Rays will have at least a share of first in the division for the first time since last April.

The success started early, with Archer getting two of his seven strikeouts in the first inning. Leftfielder Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the first by taking a 1-1 pitch over the leftfield wall, just beyond the reach of Toronto centerfielder Kevin Pillar. It was the Rays’ first leadoff home run since June 28 of last year.

The Rays expanded the lead to 2-0 moments later, in front of an announced crowd of 21,107. Logan Forsythe blooped off second baseman Devon Travis’ glove in shallow rightfield, scoring Evan Longoria.

The Rays got some breaks along the way, racking up 13 hits off of Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle. Kevin Kiermaier used an awkward hop (and a bobble by Toronto shortstop Ryan Goins) for an infield single in the fourth. Rene Rivera followed that with a bloop single over first baseman Justin Smoak, setting up Guyer’s sac fly.  …

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For starters, Rays vs. Blue Jays

UPDATE, 11:13: OF Desmond Jennings is listed as day to day with left knee soreness. He left Saturday's game with the flare-up. Jennings wasn't' in the clubhouse before the game, but that's not uncommon for Sunday games like this. 

Lineups below

DEVELOPING: The Rays wrap up their nine-game homestand today against the Blue Jays. RHP Chris Archer (2-2, 1.07) hasn’t allowed an earned run since the sixth inning of opening day. Toronto is scheduled to start LHP Mark Buehrle.

OF Desmond Jennings is not in the lineup today, after leaving the game with soreness in his left knee - the same one that bothered him at the end of the 2014 season.

Today’s Rays lineup:

Brandon Guyer LF

Steven Souza Jr. RF

Asdrubal Cabrera DH

Evan Longoria 3B

Logan Forsythe 2B

James Loney 1B

Tim Beckham SS

Kevin Kiermaier CF

Rene Rivera C

Chris Archer RHP

Blue Jays

Devon Travis 2B

Russell Martin C

Josh Donaldson 3B

Edwin Encrnacion DH

Justin Smoak 1B

Michael Saunders RF

Dalton Pompey LF

Kevin Pillar CF

Ryan Goins SS

Mark Buehrle LHP

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For starters, Rays vs. Jays, with Teaford up, Dykstra DFA'd

Erasmo Ramirez, who struggled mightily in his first two outings, including a start in Toronto, pitched a clean inning on Sunday.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

Erasmo Ramirez, who struggled mightily in his first two outings, including a start in Toronto, pitched a clean inning on Sunday.

UPDATE, 3:43: And the Rays did indeed call up LHP Everett Teaford, to provide coverage today in the event Ramirez doesn't last long, and designated for assignment Dykstra.

Teaford, who pitched parts of three seasons with Royals, spent last year in Korea and said he didn't know if he would ever get back to the majors. Scheduled to start tonight for Triple-A Durham, he said he is ready and willing to do whatever the Rays need in terms of pitching multiple innings or to face a tough lefty.

Dykstra filled in when James Loney was on the DL, but the Rays needed the spot on the 40-man roster. Manager Kevin Cash said if he isn't claimed on waivers the Rays would welcome him back. They do, however, have J.P. Arencibia at Durham now.

Among other pre-game notes:

* Loney said he felt fine after returning from the DL on Friday, that today was a scheduled day off vs. a lefty starter and to help ease him back in since he played only one rehab game.

* LHP Jeff Beliveau was in the clubhouse two days after shoulder surgery, saying it went well and he was told it will be 10-12 months for him to be fully healthy and back pitching in the big leagues. …

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For starters, Rays vs. Jays, with Smyly and Loney back

UPDATE, 4:58: Rays RHP Alex Cobb said he felt "great" in his first session off the mound since leaving the March 17 spring game with what was diagnosed as elbow tendinitis. .... LHP Jake McGee played catch with no issues from the stiff back that delayed his rehab assignment, and said he will throw a bullpen session Saturday with a plan if that goes well to pitch in a game early next week for the Stone Crabs then likely go to Triple-A Durham, aiming now for a return in the second week of May. .... The Rays took their team photo before the game. ... Cash said a Saturday starter won't be named until after Friday's game, depending on how the relievers are used. It could be RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Erasmo Ramirez or RHP Steve Geltz. ... RHP Alex Colome is expected to make another rehab start on Sunday, though that could change depending on how Friday's game goes.

Jays lineup, without Bautista and Martin and Navarro:
Reyes ss
Travis 2b
Donaldson dh
Encarnacion 1b
Valencia 3b
Pillar rf
Tolleson lf
Pompey cf
Thole c
Dickey p …

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Rays shuffle roster, and other Thursday leftovers

The Rays made two post-game roster moves, optioning 1B Allan Dykstra and OF Mikie Mahtook, who had been called up earlier in the day, to Triple-A Durham in advance of activating 1B James Loney and LHP Drew Smyly from the disabled list on Friday.

Also notable in their 2-1 walkoff win over the Red Sox, which got them back to .500 at 8-8: …

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At Trop, Tampa Mayor also waiting for chance to talk stadium

Before and after throwing out a ceremonial first pitch, with gusto, on Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn chatted with team president Brian Auld and other Rays officials.

That level of banter is about all they can do for now, at least until St. Petersburg and the Rays work out a deal for them to discuss stadium sites on the other side of the bridges. Those talks are on hold, likely until after the season, after the St. Pete City Council rejected the last proposal.

"We still are willing to talk when they get the opportunity,'' Buckhorn said. "We just want the Rays to be able to stay in this area. Until the city of St. Petersburg and the Rays come to an agreement, we truly are in the dugout. But when that day comes, I think the entire community will say, "Okay, let the Rays look, let them make the appropriate decision." The decision may be Pinellas County, it may be Hillsborough. But they've got to have the ability to look.''

And though Jeff Vinik's master development plan doesn't include a stadium, Buckhorn said he was confident there are good options in downtown Tampa.

"Oh yea, absolutely,'' he said. "Maybe not the central business district, but in the urban core I think there are sites that will work.'' …

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For starters, Rays at Red Sox, seeking series win

Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, opposed by Clay Buchholz.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, opposed by Clay Buchholz.

UPDATE, 5:18: Riefenhauser said he had been sore for a few days and when it didn't get better the Rays opted for caution in putting him on the DL. He expects with rest and treatment to be ready when eligible on May 4. ... Cash said it will be tough to not have a lefty in the bullpen but that several of their right-handed relievers are effective against lefty batters. ... LHP Drew Smyly said he will be "anxious" for Friday's start but otherwise treat it as a normal games in terms of strategy and pitch usage. .. Cash acknowledged they have been aggressive by design in their replay challenges and he was undeterred by their 0-for-9 mark thus far.

UPDATE, 3:22: Rays lineup looks like this:

DeJesus dh,
Souza rf,
Cabrera ss,
Longoria 3b,
Jennings lf,
Dykstra 1b,
Forsythe 2b,
Kiermaier cf,
Rivera c,
Odorizzi p

And the Red Sox lineup:

Betts CF,
Pedroia 2B,
Ortiz DH,
Sandoval 3B,
Napoli 1B,
Nava RF,
Craig LF,
Bogaerts SS,
Leon C,
Buchholz P

DEVELOPING: Coming off last night's come-from-behind win, the Rays are back at it tonight against the Red Sox looking to win the series.

RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, opposed by RHP Clay Buchholz.

 …

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A few leftovers from Rays 7-5 win over Red Sox

A few leftovers from the Rays 7-5 come-from-behind win over the Red Sox on Wednesday:

* In rallying from the 5-1 deficit, the Rays logged their largest comeback win since May 24, 2014 vs Boston when they fell behind 5-0 in the first and won 6-5 in 15 innings. It their first comeback win of the 2015 season.

* Steven Souza Jr.'s solo homer in the 1st was the Rays 8th HR hit by a rookie, tying the franchise record for April. Souza also set an individual record, surpassing Evan Longoria. Souza leads the Rays with 4 homers and 11 RBIs, hitting .364/.400/.818 with 4 HR and 9 RBI in his last 8 games. He is tied with Toronto's Devon Travis for most homers among major league rookies. Souza left in the sixth inning due to a right forearm cramp but said he felt fine after the game and expected to play Thursday.

* The seven runs were the Rays most in a home game since Aug 30, 2014 vs. BOS. It was just their second home win of the season.
 
* Manager Kevin Cash initiated a double-replay challenge during a play in the eighth. Officially, Cash challenged an out call at 1B in the 8th, which was confirmed following a 2:09 delay, and the umpires agreed to review the call at third base. So technically, Cash dropped to 0-for-9 in challenges, plus he has not won two umpire-initiated challenges.

* The first 6 batters reached in the sixth inning (5 singles, 1 walk) as the Rays scored 4 runs, matching their 2nd-highest scoring inning of the season, behind the 7-run 7th on April 10 in Miami. It was also the third time they batted around this season.

* Evan Longoria snapped an 0-for-12 with a 1B in the sixth on a 3-0 count. It was his 1st hit on a 3-0 count since Sep 25, 2012 at BOS.

* Desmond Jennings' single to load the bases snapped the team 0-for-17 stretch with RISP.

* INF Logan Forsythe drew his 3rd bases-loaded walk of the season, most in the majors, and the MLB high 7th for the Rays. The next closest team are the Red Sox, with three. Forsythe never had one out in 84 career walks from 2011-14.

* Pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer had a game-tying, 2-run single on an 0-2 pitch. It was the second time this year a Rays pinch-hitter delivered 2 RBI on an 0-2 pitch (Tim Beckham HR, April 16 at TOR). Before this year, it had happened only once in Rays history: Al Martin (3-run homer) on July 20, 2003 vs. TEX.

* INF/OF Jake Elmore became the 11th player in Rays history to hit a home run in his first at-bat with the team. The last was Ryan Roberts on July 25, 2012, at BAL. Others include manager Kevin Cash in 2005.

* RHP Steve Geltz in eight appearances has made his first pro start, recorded his first win and on Wednesday got his first save. He is the fourth Ray to record a save this season (Boxberger, Jepsen, Frieri), tied with the Rockies for most in the majors.

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For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox with Jeff Beliveau out for year, Jake Elmore up

Nathan Karns will be on the mound for the Rays, taking on Red Sox righty Joe Kelly.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Nathan Karns will be on the mound for the Rays, taking on Red Sox righty Joe Kelly.

UPDATE, 5:29: The Rays made official the news we reported this morning, that LHP Drew Smyly will be activated from the DL and will start Friday. The Rays will have to make a roster move then, possibly sending down a reliever.

CF Kevin Kiermaier is back in the lineup after being sick most of the weekend.

Though the 3-4-5 hitters - Asdrubal Cabrera, Evan Longoria, and Desmond Jennings - are all struggling, hitting under .200, manager Kevin Cash said they are not contemplating changes and remain confident they will soon rebound.

Red Sox lineup:

Betts cf
Pedroia 2b
Ortiz dh
Ramirez lf
Napoli 1b
Sandoval 3b
Victorino rf
Bogaerts ss
Hanigan c
Kelly p

UPDATE, 5:23: The news about Beliveau was indeed bad, as he will have surgery on Thursday to repair a torn labrum and is out for the season. INF Ryan Brett went on the 15-day DL as expected, and the Rays called up INF Jake Elmore, who was added to the 40-man roster as Beliveau was shifted from the 15- to the 60-day DL.

Meanwhile, here is the Rays lineup:
DeJesus DH
Souza rf
Cabrera ss
Longoria 3b
Jennings lf
Dykstra 1b
Forsythe 2b
Kiermaier cf
Rivera c
Karns p …

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You know things are breaking bad ...

Actor Bryan Cranston at the Trop last night, cheering for the other guys.

JAMES BORCHUCK / TAMPA BAY TIMES

Actor Bryan Cranston at the Trop last night, cheering for the other guys.

With 10-plus players hurt, a roster nearly half-stocked with rookies and a hefty percentage of the fans coming to the Trop cheering for the other team, the Rays have had a tough go of it so far.

It can't help when a top-name actor, in town to film a movie, plops down behind the visitors dugout and dons a cap of the opposing team, as Bryan Cranston did last night.

Times photographer James Borchuck spotted him last night to snap this image, as Cranston - an Emmy and Tony award winner prominent recently for his role in the hit TV series Breaking Bad - is set for about two weeks of filming locally for his 2016 film, The Infiltrator.

The film, which recently shot in London, is based on the memoirs of Tampa resident Robert Mazur, a former DEA agent who worked undercover to bring down drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's money laundering system.

 

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Brett adds to Rays "head scratching" injury woes

Injuries continue to bug the Rays.

Rookie 2B Ryan Brett was the latest to go down Tuesday, forced from the game due to a subluxation of his left shoulder, and likely to become the major-league most 11th Rays player placed on the disabled list.

As much as it's considered part of baseball, Rays manager Kevin Cash acknowledged the string of injuries is getting to be ridiculous.

"They get frustrating for all of us,'' Cash said. "You'd like to get to the point where the guys that you maybe planned for are all out there. We
understand that that doesn't always happen. There is some head-scratching going on, like, ‘is this really happening again?' ''

If Brett ends up on the DL as expected, he would seem likely to be replaced by either oF Mikie Mahtook - whose place Brett took on Friday - or INF Hak-Ju Lee, who would be making his debut. Or the Rays could opt for a more offensive-oriented player and bring up third catcher Curt Casali. Or even to fortfy their bullpen by bringing back RHP Kirby Yates or add RHP Ronald Belisario. …

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For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox, on Archer day

Chris Archer, who has pitched very well this season and pretty good against all teams but the Red Sox, will be on the mound for the Rays.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

Chris Archer, who has pitched very well this season and pretty good against all teams but the Red Sox, will be on the mound for the Rays.

UPDATE, 5:33: The Rays announced that RHP Matt Andriese won Al Lopez Award as top rookie in spring training.

UPDATE, 5:31: 1B James Loney (oblique) went through a full batting practice and based on how he feels expects to start a one- or two-game rehab assignment and rejoin the Rays sometime during the weekend series vs. Toronto. ... Cash said the lineup was a product of wanting to use righty batters, but also giving struggling SS Asdrubal Cabrera a day off and not taxing OF Kevin Kiermaier, who was sick over the weekend but said he is feeling much better now. Kiermaier is likely to be used for defense tonight, as is Cabrera. ....LHP Jeff Beliveau says initial exam showed impingement, waiting to see Dr. Eaton for further reading of MRI. Admits it's an uneasy feeling. …

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Kevin Cash on Grant Balfour DFA

Manager Kevin Cash said veteran reliever Grant Balfour took Saturday night’s news that he was being designated for assignment well, but the move was necessary because the Rays needed more success in the bullpen.

“Very difficult decision with Grant, just because of what he’s meant for the organization and the way he’s pitched here in a lot of big games, big moments for this organization,” Cash said.  “It was kind of out of need for our team going forward. We were getting a little short. We need innings. Where we’re at with some injuries and situations like that, that was kind of the deciding factor.”

At 37, Balfour was the team’s oldest player. His 274 appearances are the second most in club history, behind Joel Peralta (296). But Balfour followed last year’s rough season (2-6, 4.91 ERA) by allowing three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings this year.

“He was a big part of this clubhouse, this team,” Cash said before Sunday's game against the Yankees. “I think it shocked some guys, but the way he handled it helped everything, made it a little bit better.”  …

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For starters, Rays vs. Yankees

UPDATE, 11:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier isn’t in the lineup for a second consecutive day. He was sick Saturday but said he’s available to play.

RHP Brandon Gomes had a jersey in his locker, but I didn’t see him in the clubhouse. He was called up from Triple-A Durham after veteran reliever Grant Balfour was designated for assignment.

Today’s lineups:

Rays

David DeJesus DH

Steven Souza Jr. RF

Asdrubal Cabrera SS

Evan Longoria 3B

Desmond Jennings CF

Allan Dykstra 1B

Brandon Guyer LF

Tim Beckham 2B

Rene Rivera C

Matt Andriese RHP

Yankees

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Brett Gardner LF

Alex Rodriguez DH

Mark Teixeira 1B

Chase Headley 3B

Stephen Drew 2B

Garrett Jones RF

John Ryan Murphy C

Didi Gregorius SS

Michael Pineda RHP

DEVELOPING: The Rays will be back at Tropicana Field today to finish a three-game series with the Yankees. Tampa Bay lost the first two but will try to rebound with RHP Matt Andriese (0-0, 3.86) against RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 5.11).

Andriese lasted 3 2/3 innings Tuesday in his first big-league start and will try to go deeper today.

If you missed it, the Rays designated reliever Grant Balfour for assignment after Saturday night’s 9-0 loss. I’ll try to get some more reaction to that today.

  …

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Rays DFA Balfour despite $7-million salary

  After veteran reliever Grant Balfour pitched poorly in Saturday's 9-0 loss to the Yankees, the Rays designated him for assignment, a procedural step to likely releasing him and eating the remainder of his $7-million salary.
     Brandon Gomes was called up and will take his place in the bullpen.
   "Tonight was embarrassing for me,'' Balfour said.
    Balfour, 37, said he was a bit surprised by the decision and that his arm feels good, but he acknowledged he doesn't "have the same fastball" and that some time off may help. He was 2-6 with a 4.91 ERA last season to start a two-year, $12 million deal and had a 6.23 ERA this season through six games.
   The Rays were down 4-0 when Balfour came in and made things considerably worse in the seventh, walking Alex Rodriguez to load the bases, then allowing a sac fly, hitting a batter and, after starting 0-2, giving up a grand slam to Chris Young, then two more walks before getting out of the inning.
   "You're one pitch away from getting out of a tough situation and you sort of think to yourself, wow, you could have struck the guy out there, had him 0-2, and you walk out of there thinking you did a good job tonight, you haven't given up a run all season, six outings,'' Balfour said.
   "Instead you have a terrible outing. You walk some guys, it wasn't a good outing. It's not really something I want to finish on. ... I always told myself I wanted to be the one to leave this game, not someone else. So we'll see, we'll see where it goes.''
   Balfour said his arm felt better than his radar gun readings looked, that he tough he should have been clocking 92-93 when it said 88-91. As a result, he acknowledged, "I've been shying away from using my fastball as much.''
   He had the same issues much of last season, but felt he finished strong, with his velocity up to 94, and it would carry over this season.
    He worked out much of the winter at the Trop and reported to camp in good shape, but then missed two plus weeks to go to Australia to attend to his father, who died in March.   
   Balfour, who was emotional in a room off the clubhouse after gettinf the news, thanked the Rays for the opportunity in his first stint.
   His return to the Rays was somewhat unexpected, as he was a free agent coming off a successful stint in Oakland, and had agreed to a deal in Baltimore that the Orioles then backed out of based on something that showed up in his physical, a decision that became somewhat controversial. The Rays had him examined and felt he was in good shape.
        "I would like to have been a lot better,'' he said.
     Balfour, 37, said e would take some time before deciding whether to pursue other opportunities if they arise.
  "We'll see what happens,'' he said. "Maybe a little bit of rest will be good for me. ... I'm not thinking too far ahead. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't.'' …

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