PORT CHARLOTTE — One of the key story lines in Rays camp is seeing what kind of bounce-back season they can get out of a healthy Brad Miller, coming off October core muscle repair surgery.
And while Miller isn't feeling 100 percent — he stubbed and broke his right pinky toe the other night — he got off to a promising start in Friday's 6-3 exhibition win over Pittsburgh with a two-RBI opposite-field double off the wall and solid work at first base.
"He looked really good," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's looked really good. And to see him driving the ball that far the other way, it's a good sign."
After dropping from 30 homers and a .786 OPS in 2016 to 9 and .631 last year, Miller knows there is a lot to prove. "It's good getting back out there," he said. "Getting your timing down as a hitter, and just kind of getting on your feet in the field. … All-in-all a good day."
Pitching in, Chirinos style
RHP Yonny Chirinos began throwing a split-finger fastball with six weeks to go last season because he wasn't happy with his changeups.
While still working on the grip, the new pitch looked good Friday when he threw two scoreless innings in the 6-3 split-squad win over the Orioles in Sarasota, retiring six straight after a leadoff single to ex-Ray Tim Beckham.
"It's still a developing offering," pitching coach Kyle Snyder said, "but he does he feel a lot more confident in that than the changeups. … It has swing-and-miss potential. It's a groundball option."
Chirinos is among the candidates for a multi-inning relief role.
Pitching in, Castillo style
One of the relief candidates the Rays most want to see this spring is RHP Diego Castillo, the organization's minor-league reliever of the year for his work at Double- and Triple-A.
Primarily because Castillo makes throwing hard look so easy.
He showed his stuff in a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the Pirates, with his fastball in the upper 90s.
"That's kind of him," Cash said. "He doesn't look like he's letting it go that much but it sure comes out pretty good."
"The first thing (Brent Honeywell) said was, 'I'm definitely going to throw harder than you now with a new ligament,' " Chris Archer recounted. #Rays @TB_Times @TBTimes_Rays #SpringTraining https://t.co/tPVzfXrqW0— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 23, 2018
D-Rob's glove love
INF Daniel Robertson showed off with several slick plays at second, earning raves from Cash, who said they plan to try him soon in the outfield to potentially expand his duties. Robertson also provided the next scare of the Rays' rough spring when he left the game after being hit on the left hand with a pitch, but said he was fine, with just a little bruising.
CF Kevin Kiermaier knocked in the first two runs vs. Pittsburgh with a bloop single. … Minor-league OF Nathan Lukes made the game-ending play with a nice catch and throw to double a runner off second. … LF Micah Johnson got the Rays off to a good start in Sarasota, working a 12-pitch walk. … SS Willy Adames, who switched to No. 1 with his No. 27 soon going to OF Carlos Gomez, knocked in the first run.
• The Rays joined other MLB teams in wearing Stoneman Douglas caps in honor and tribute to the victims of last week's school shooting, and also held a pre-game moment of silence. The caps will be auctioned to benefit the victims' fund. "It's something small, bringing some awareness, helping these families," Miller said. "Whatever we can do."
• The new mound visit rules were a slight issue in the opener when the umps stopped Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage from going to the mound because the catcher had already been out. They said it would then have been a second visit and he would have had to take out the pitcher. "There's a little bit of confusion right now on how the visits go and when you get docked a visit," Cash said. "It seems like there's been some mixed messages."
• INF Christian Arroyo, the Hernando High product acquired from the Giants, won't play the first couple games but says he's actually ahead of schedule in return from offseason hand issue. He is set to take first live BP on Saturday and proceed from there.
• LHP Anthony Banda, acquired Tuesday from Arizona, threw a live BP session, impressing with his arm stroke and delivery.
• RHP Daniel Hudson, acquired Thursday from Pittsburgh, is expected to join the Rays on Saturday. He passed on the opportunity to ride the Pirates' team bus down from Bradenton on Friday.