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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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For starters, Rays vs. Yankees

UPDATE, 5:00: DH/OF John Jaso's left wrist has been slow to heal, and it appears it could be into mid-May before he rejoins the lineup. Jaso said a recent X-ray confirmed there was no break, but there is bone bruising and he remains unable to even pick up a bat with his left hand much less swing it.

LHP Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) will pitch in a Double-A game at Jacksonville on Sunday, scheduled for 4-5 innings and 70 pitches, and depending how he feels Monday/Tuesday, the Rays will decide whether he needs another rehab start or can join the rotation at the end of next week.

LHP Jake  McGee (elbow surgery) will throw a bullpen session on Sunday at Trop and, assuming all goes well, head out on Monday to join Triple-A Durham, where he will make at least three rehab apprearances, with the possibility of joining the Rays as soon as May 1 in Baltimore.

RHP Alex Colome (recovering from pneumonia) will throw a bullpen session today and then make another rehab start on Tuesday.

Yankees lineup:
Ellsbury cf
Gardner lf
Rodriguez DH
Teixeira 1b
McCann c
Young rf
Headley 3b
Drew ss
Petit 2b
Tananka p

 …

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For Starters, Rays vs. Yankees

Nate Karns (1-1, 4.97 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Rays.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Nate Karns (1-1, 4.97 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Rays.

UPDATE, 4:50: It's been a busy day for the Rays. Evan Longoria is in the lineup at DH and will bat fourth, a day after a pitch bruised his left hip. 

"I'm playing, guys," Longoria said. "I'm good."

The Rays gave themselves depth at infieeld by optioning OF Mikie Mahtook to Triple-A Durham and recalling INF Ryan Brett. The team made another roster move, sending LHP Jeff Beliveau tot he 15-day DL with left shoulder soreness and recalling LHP C.J. Riefenhauser from Durham. 

Manager Kevin Cash also announced that RHP Matt Andriese will start Sunday's game.

The lineups:

Rays 

Kiermaier CF

Souza RF

Cabrera SS

Longoria DH

Jennings LF

Dykstra 1B

Forsythe 3B

Beckham 2B

Wilson C

Karns RHP

Yankees

Ellsbury CF

Headley 3B

Beltran RF

Teixeira 1B

McCann C

Rodriguez DH

Drew 2B

Young LF

Gregorius SS

Warren RHP

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back at Tropicana Field to open a nine-game homestand, which begins with tonight's game against the Yankees. RHP Nate Karns (1-1, 4.97 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Rays against RHP Adam Warren (0-1, 1.69 ERA).

It's still unclear whether 3B Evan Longoria will be in the lineup after bruising his left hip Thursday night in Toronto.  …

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Evan Longoria hopeful to be in lineup Friday

Rays 3B Evan Longoria hopes to be in the lineup Friday but won't know for sure until he sees how his bruised left hip feels after the flight home and a night's sleep.

"I'm gonna do my best to play,'' Longoria said after the game in Toronto. "Gut feeling right now is I would play. There's nothing structurally wrong. So unless I wake up and I can't walk tomorrow morning I'll be in there.''

Longoria was hit by a pitch - intentionally, he said, in retaliation for Rays starter Chris Archer hitting two Blue Jays batters - by Toronto RHP Marco Estrada, who was a college teammate at Long Beach State and remains a friend, who he was talking with before the game.

"I don't have any hard feelings toward him,'' Longoria said. "It escalated and it looks a lot worse than it probably would have been had it hit me in a different spot and it not ended up the way it did. I guess, ultimately, you have to protect your guys.''

Longoria said because he wasn't expecting to get hit, batting with one out in the eighth, he wasn't in a position to lessen the blow. "It just got me in a bad spot,'' he said. …

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For starters, Rays at Jays, on Archer day

Chris Archer is coming off a dominant start on Saturday in Miami, where he allowed only two baserunners over seven innings.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Chris Archer is coming off a dominant start on Saturday in Miami, where he allowed only two baserunners over seven innings.

UPDATE, 3:43: The Rays signed C J.P. Arencibia to a minor-league deal and expect him to soon join Triple-A Durham. Arencibia, previously with the Blue Jays and Rangers, was in spring training with the Orioles but was released last week.

UPDATE, 3:35: With Toronto RHP Aaron Sanchez on the mound, David DeJesus is back atop the Rays lineup at DH.

Rays lineup:

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

Jays lineup:
Reyes ss,
Donaldson 3b,
Bautista rf,
Encarnacion dh,
Smoak 1b,
Martin c,
Pompey cf,
Pillar lf,
Travis 2b,
Sanchez p

DEVELOPING: The Rays are looking to win a second straight series as the they wrap up a four-game set in Toronto tonight with RHP Chris Archer on the mound.

Archer is coming off a dominant start on Saturday in Miami, where he allowed only two baserunners over seven innings. He was limited to 84 pitches, and said Wednesday he would like the opportunity to work deeper into games.

The Blue Jays are starting young, hard-throwing Aaron Sanchez. …

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Rays to retire radio call sign of slain Tarpon Springs officer

Officer Charles Kondek was killed in the line of duty on December 21, 2014.

Tarpon Springs Police Department

Officer Charles Kondek was killed in the line of duty on December 21, 2014.

The Rays announced they will retire the radio call sign of slain Tarpon Springs police officer Charles Kondek in a ceremony prior to Sunday's game at Tropicana Field.

Kondek was killed in the line of duty on December 21, 2014.

His 285  call sign will be added to the leftfield wall that includes those of three St. Petersburg police officers who were killed in 2011: Thomas Baitinger, Jeffrey Yaslowitz and David Crawford.

Kondek's wife, Teresa, and children, Holly, Andrew, Charlie, Brandon and Aleena will attend the ceremony along with members of the Tarpon Springs pollice, led by chief Robert Kochen.

"On behalf of the Tarpon Springs Police Department and the Kondek family, we greatly appreciate the Rays organization for honoring and remembering officer Charles Kondek by having his name displayed inside Tropicana Field," Kochen said in a statement. "We cannot express how much this means to Officer Kondek's family, the Police Department, and our community. Once again, thank you to the Rays organization."

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For starters, Rays at Jays, with Erasmo on the mound

Erasmo Ramirez struggled mightily pitching in relief on Friday in Miami.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Erasmo Ramirez struggled mightily pitching in relief on Friday in Miami.

UPDATE, 4:51: With Dominguez replacing Yates, Rays now have a major-league most 8 rookie on 25-man roster.

UPDATE, 4:45: Dominguez said he was pleased to get called up and ready to show he can pitch regularly in the majors. ... Kiermaier said he welcomes the chance to play vs. a LHP and hopes to get the opportunity to be an everyday player.

Jays lineup:
Reyes ss
Donaldson 3b
Bautista rf
Encarnacion dh
Navarro c
Smoak 1b
Pillar lf
Pompey cf
Travis 2b
Buerhle p

UPDATE, 3:42: Lefty-swinging Kevin Kiermaier gets a start vs. LHP Mark Buehrle today, and Desmond Jennings is the DH.

Rays lineup:
Guyer lf,
Souza rf,
Cabrera ss,
Longoria 3b,
Jennings dh,
Forsythe 1b,
Kiermaier cf,
Rivera c,
Beckham 2b,
Ramirez p

Also, the Rays have assigned RHP Ronald Belisario, who was sidelined during the first part of spring training with a left shoulder fracture, to Triple-A Durham.

DEVELOPING: The Rays take on the Jays again tonight in Toronto, seeking to push their winning streak to five.

The biggest issue may be getting a solid start from RHP Erasmo Ramirez, who struggled mightily pitching in relief on Friday in Miami. …

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As expected, Rays call up RHP Jose Dominguez

As expected, the Rays called up RHP Jose Dominguez to add a fresh arm to their bullpen.

Dominguez, who last pitched Sunday for Triple-A Durham, will wear No. 52.

Dominguez, 24, was acquired from the Dodgers in November along with minor-league RHP Greg Harris in a deal for RHP Joel Peralta and minor-league LHP Adam Liberatore.

He has made 14 previous big-league appearances, nine in 2013 and five in 2014, with a 6.14 ERA. He is a hard-thrower, clocked as high as 100.6 mph in the majors, and supposedly as high as 103 in the minors. He also is cousins with Rays RHP Alex Colome.

The Rays created space by sending down RHP Kirby Yates, who threw 43 pitches over two innings on Tuesday and would have not been available for several days.

 

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Rays to start Ramirez, send down Yates to add fresh arm

The Rays after Tuesday's game named RHP Erasmo Ramirez to start Wednesday and sent down RHP Kirby Yates in order to add a fresh arm to their bullpen.

Ramirez seemed the likely candidate unless he was needed in relief Tuesday; he is coming off a brutal Rays debut on Friday in Miami, but the Rays are hoping a few days to settle in will help his performance.

Yates threw 43 pitches in working two innings on Tuesday, and likely would have been unavailable for at least a few days.

The  Rays said they will announce the corresponding move on Wednesday; RHP Jose Dominguez, a hard-throwier acquired during the off-season from the Dodgers, seems the most likely candidate, given that he hasn't pitched since Sunday.

Also, he is on the 40-man roster (RHP Brandon Gomes is not, requiring another player be let go); and a right-hander matches up better against the Blue Jays (C.J. Riefenhauser, the other likely option is a lefty.)

 

 

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For starters, Rays at Blue Jays, with a different look

Matt Andriese will be on the mound for the Rays, making his first big-league start.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Matt Andriese will be on the mound for the Rays, making his first big-league start.

UPDATE, 5:51: Seems clear that Rays plan is to start Ramirez on Wednesday if not used tonight. If he is, they could start Geltz or a called-up reliever and have a bullpen day. ... Cash said getting Cabrera off his feet for a DH day was driving force in the lineup alignment. Conversations about using Rivera at 1B started after Loney was hurt.

UPDATE, 4:52: The Rays signed LHP Andrew Oliver, who last pitched in the majors in 2011 with Detroit, to a minor-league deal, providing depth, likely at Triple-A Durham. ... 1B Allan Dykstra is handling the "fame" of his pre-game black eye well, showing off a video of the incident sent to him by former teammate Cole Figueroa and saying his wife texted him after seeing the clip on TV asking, "Why are you trying to bunt?

Jays lineup:
Reyes ss
Pompey cf
Bautista rf
Encarnacion 1b
Donaldson 3b
Navarro dh
Martin c
Pillar lf
Travis 2b
Norris p

UPDATE, 4:43: Trying to go as right-handed as possible, the Rays have an unusual looking lineup for tonight. …

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Some Monday night leftovers from Rays-Jays

A couple of topics left over from the Rays' 2-1 win over the Jays on Monday:

 * While Rays manager Kevin Cash said he understood and may have done the same thing in that situation, several Rays players said they were surprised to see Jose Bautista trying to steal with a full count on Edwin Encarnacion and no outs in the ninth.

   So, too, apparently, was Bautista, who told Toronto reporters he was told by his coaches to go: "At first they didn't, and they must have had their reasons why, and I don't question. I just follow the signs and the orders. And I went because they gave me the sign." 
  Also, Bautista said:  "I'm not that fast. And it was a high fastball. The catcher's got a good arm. Unfortunately, we took a gamble and it didn't pay off."


  * Rays 1B Allan Dykstra had two "souvenirs" from the game, the ball from his first big-league hit, and the shiner on his left eye after a misdirected bunt during batting pratice left him noticeably bruised. …

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Commissioner talks up Montreal, and talks of Sternberg's commitment to Tampa Bay

   Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke positively again of Montreal as a potential site for a major-league team, but also said again that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg remains committed to finding a stadium solution in the Tampa Bay area.
  Speaking before throwing out the first pitch at the Jays home opener, Mandfred said it was "impossible to tell" about a specific timeline for putting a team back in Montreal, though he did say expansion was "a back-burner issue" for now and that relocation "obviously depends on developments in other markets.''
   Manfred said he has spoken with Sternberg, who said last week that he did not expect any further negotitations with St. Petersburg officials about being able to look for new sites until after the season.
   "I think he remains amazingly committed to the idea of trying to make Tampa work,'' Manfred said. "He is realistic about the fact that the timelime probably shifted a little bit. As I've said before, I think the key for Major League Baseabll is to follow the lead of the local ownership. They have the feel for what's going on in that local community, what the timing can be, what can be accomplished. And I'm very comfortable following Stu's lead on this one.'' …

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For starters, Rays at Jays, on opening night in Toronto

Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, coming off his solid Wednesday outing  against the Orioles.

Getty Images

Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, coming off his solid Wednesday outing against the Orioles.

UPDATE, 5:53: One interesting factor in tonight's game will be the new AstroTurf installed at the Rogers Centre. Rays coaches and staff took an early look at it, and their initial impressions are that it will play very slow. That could mean ground balls don't get through the infield as quickly, and that balls don't get to, or past, outfielders as quickly as usual.

Manager Kevin Cash said Matt Andriese is set to start Tuesday but the Rays will wait to see how tonight's game, and possibly Tuesday's go, before announcing a Wednesday starter.

Cash said he had no advice for his hitters in facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey tonight, though did suggest they are better off swinging earlier in the count.

LHP Jake McGee (elbow surgery) threw 30 pitches of live batting practice on Monday in Port Charlotte and is set to throw in an extended spring game on Thursday.

Blue Jays lineup:
Reyes ss
Pompey cf
Bautista rf
Encarnacion dh
Donaldson 3b
Smoak 1b
Martin c
Pillar lf
Travis 2b
Dickey p

UPDATE, 5:49: As expected, Tim Beckham is the Rays lineup tonight and will be the next two nights as well: …

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