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Video preview: Rays at Blue Jays

Evan Longoria scores as Russell Martin waits for the throw during a game between the Rays and Blue Jays earlier this month in St. Petersburg.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Evan Longoria scores as Russell Martin waits for the throw during a game between the Rays and Blue Jays earlier this month in St. Petersburg.

With a day off to get over their tough walkoff walk loss in Baltimore on Wednesday, the Rays tonight open a weekend series against the struggling Blue Jays. Here is our video preview from the Rogers Centre, with first pitch tonight at 7:07:

 

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For starters: Snell on the hill as Rays face struggling Blue Jays

Blake Snell will start for the Rays, with plans to go back to the full windup delivery after working out of the stretch exclusively in his last start.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Blake Snell will start for the Rays, with plans to go back to the full windup delivery after working out of the stretch exclusively in his last start.

UPDATE, 6:10: The Rays had a slight scare during BP when rookie INF Daniel Robertson was hit in the head by a thrown ball. Robertson was fielding a grounder when he was hit, but the bill of his cap deflected the ball from a direct hit. He was checked by Rays staff and said afterward he was fine, more startled than anything. …

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Cronenworth extends hit streak to 20 games for High A Charlotte

High A Charlotte SS Jake Cronenworth became the 11th player in the organization’s history to have a 20-game hitting streak, joining the likes of Carl Crawford (20 games) and Aubrey Huff (team record 28 games).

Joey Gomes, brother of Jonny, had hit streaks of 22 and 20.

“I feel comfortable at the plate. I didn’t even know that was going on,” Cronenworth told SunCoast Sports Bryan Levine after his two-hit night Wednesday for the Stone Crabs. “I think just coming to the park every day, and having good, quality at-bats no matter what the situations is helps a lot.”

Cronenworth has reached base at least twice in 16 of those 20 games. He singled, tripled and walked in Wednesday’s game.

“He’s on fire,” Stone Crabs manager Michael Johns told Levine. “Every time he comes up to the plate you think he’s going to do something special.”

Cronenworth leads the Florida State League with a .406 batting average. In 17 games (the streak began last season), Cronenworth has scored 18 runs, drawn 14 walks and has a 1.048 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.  …

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Rays activate Mallex Smith, send him to AAA Durham

Mallex Smith was a catalyst the first 10 days of the season before straining a hamstring.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Mallex Smith was a catalyst the first 10 days of the season before straining a hamstring.

OF Mallex Smith was activated off the DL by the Rays and optioned to AAA Durham.

Smith was a catalyst the first 10 days of the season before straining a hamstring. But with OF Colby Rasmus expected to come off he DL this weekend, the Rays felt it was better to send Smith to the minors now.

Doing it that was allows them to keep OF Shane Peterson for a couple extra days, and as protection if Rasmus has a setback. Peterson is out of options so has to be passed through waivers, and potentially lost, before he can be sent to the minors.

Also, the Rays got relatively good news on LHP Xavier Cedeno, in that a second opinion by Dr. James Andrews concurred with Dr. Koco Eaton's plan for an extended rehab to deal with forearm tightness and not surgery.

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Rays morning after: Should Farquhar have replaced Colome?

Rays relief pitcher Danny Farquhar walks off the field at the end of Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Orioles. Farquhar walked Baltimore's Seth Smith with the bases loaded and Craig Gentry scored on the play. Baltimore won 5-4 in 11 innings.

[Associated Press]

Rays relief pitcher Danny Farquhar walks off the field at the end of Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Orioles. Farquhar walked Baltimore's Seth Smith with the bases loaded and Craig Gentry scored on the play. Baltimore won 5-4 in 11 innings.

Was Danny Farquhar the right guy to be on the mound for the Rays in the 11th inning Wednesday? …

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Rays go from bad to good to worse in 5-4 11-inning loss

Teammates celebrate with the Orioles' Craig Gentry (14) after Gentry scored on a bases-loaded walk to Seth Smith in the 11th inning of a 5-4 win over the Rays.

[Associated Press]

Teammates celebrate with the Orioles' Craig Gentry (14) after Gentry scored on a bases-loaded walk to Seth Smith in the 11th inning of a 5-4 win over the Rays.

BALTIMORE - A night that started poorly and then looked promising ended cruelly for the Rays.

After overcoming a sloppy second inning that put them down three, after getting two home runs from Tim Beckham, after watching Alex Cobb battle his way through five innings, after seeing Erasmo Ramirez fight off trouble to post four zeroes, after taking the lead in the top of the 11th, the Rays ended up losing 5-4 Wednesday to the Orioles.

And on a walkoff walk.

"We did a really good job battling back,'' third baseman Evan Longoria said. "Being down like that with (Dylan) Bundy pitching a good game, we chipped away, we had a chance to win the game, we were in position to win. We have to win those games like that, especially on the road in the division. ... We've got to be able to close that one out somehow.''

After the Rays took the lead in the top of the 11th on a broken-bat single by Jesus Sucre, manager Kevin Cash asked Alex Colome to work a second inning, and he was eager to oblige.

But Colome wasn't as sharp, allowing a leadoff single to Chris Davis, a one-out single to Wellington Castillo and a walk to Hyun Soo Kim to load the bases, then a Jonathan Schoop fly ball to score the tying run.

After Colome walked Ryan Flaherty to reload the bases, Cash decided 32 pitches were enough, especially since Colome, their All-Star closer, had thrown 17 on Tuesday.

"I'd asked a lot of him going into that,'' Cash said. "His workload has been fairly heavy.''

Colome said afterward he was surprised to be pulled: "It surprised me. I thought I would get one more hitter.''

But Cash opted for Danny Farquhar, and it didn't go well as he walked lefty Seth Smith on four pitches to force in the winning run, starting with a curveball, then missing with fastballs

"It (stinks),'' Farquhar said. "It's the walk of shame into the clubhouse, and it's a tough night's sleep, tough two nights because we have an off-day. You've just got to learn from it.''

Before all that, the Rays definitely had some things to be pleased about.

Fill-in shortstop Beckham continued his overall impressive play by socking a pair of home runs and a double.

Cobb again overcame a lack of stuff, and a brutal second inning that included five straight singles and two throwing errors - one by him - netting three runs, to battle his way through five innings.

And reliever Ramirez, pitching with no rain in sight, did a tremendous job weaving his way through trouble - including a Beckham error that put the go-ahead run on second to start the eighth - to post four scoreless innings.

And a night that started poorly looked like it was going to end well Sucre's singled with two outs in the 11th that gave the Rays a 4-3 lead.

The rally started innocently, with a one-out walk by Logan Morrison off Alec Asher. With two outs, Shane Peterson was hit by a pitch. Then Sucre, who came in when Derek Norris was pinch-run for the in the eighth, delivered the key hit.

The Rays were in that position, in part, for familiar reasons, as they failed to take advantage of a prime opportunity, this one in the eighth when, down 3-2, they loaded the bases with no outs but got only the tying run.

The Rays dropped to 11-12 as they are off today, then play Friday in Toronto to open a stretch of 33 games in 34 games, with only one day off (May 18) until June 1.

Beckham continued his overall impressive play and sizzling show at the plate as he extended his hitting streak to seven games.

"Probably just finding his rhythm," Cash said before the game.

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For starters: Rays looking to win series with Cobb on the mound

Alex Cobb will be on the mound under what look to be clearing skies with no threat of rain.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Alex Cobb will be on the mound under what look to be clearing skies with no threat of rain.

UPDATE, 5:44: Odorizzi said he threw 65 pitches over 4 innings in his sim game and went well, so he is set to rejoin the rotation on Monday in Miami, and Cash confirmed that is the plan. ... Both OF Colby Rasmus (hip surgery) and Mallex Smith (hamstring) will continue their rehab assignments tonight. ... Cash said he is sticking with Derek Norris, hitting .155 overall and just 1-for-his-last-19, based on the strong work he is doing behind the plate. ... Expect to see RHP Erasmo Ramirez in relief tonight as he ended up not being used yesterday.

UPDATE, 3:17: Here is the Rays lineup, with struggling Derek Norris - 1-for-his-last-19 - behind the plate catching Cobb:

Dickerson DH,
Kiermaier cf,
Longoria 3b,
Miller 2b,
Souza RF,
Morrison 1b,
Beckham SS,
Peterson lf,
Norris c,
Cobb p

And here is the Orioles lineup:
Smith rf
Jones cf
Machado 3b
Davis 1b
Trumbo dh
Castillo c
Kim lf
Schoop 2b
Flaherty ss
Bundy p

DEVELOPING: The Rays are looking to take a series from the Orioles tonight and will have Alex Cobb on the mound under what look to be clearing skies with no threat of rain. …

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Spin control: Video of Rays Longoria's foul ball that went fair

Credit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado for sticking with the ball to make the play.

Getty Images

Credit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado for sticking with the ball to make the play.

So what happens when you hit a foul ball with so much spin on the ball that it rolls back fair?

Rays 3B Evan Longoria found out last night, when he rolled a ball down the third-base line that actually hit the grass on the foul side of the basepath and then came back fair, with credit due to Orioles 3B Manny Machado for sticking with the ball to make the play.

Here is the video, courtesy of MLB:

 

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Rays Tales podcast: Matt Duffy's rehab, Chad Mottola's career, Todd Kalas' return

Marc Topkin talks with rehabbing shortstop Matt Duffy about how tough it is to watch his teammates play without him.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Marc Topkin talks with rehabbing shortstop Matt Duffy about how tough it is to watch his teammates play without him.

In episode 4 of our Rays Tales podcast, Times beat writer Marc Topkin talks with rehabbing shortstop Matt Duffy about how tough it is to watch and what podcasts he likes to listen to, Chad Mottola about his playing career and how it shaped his philosophies as a hitting coach and longtime Rays TV man Todd Kalas about his return to the Trop.

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Down on the farm: Look at some of the Rays prospects

Here’s a quick look at how some of the Rays prospects are doing through the first few weeks of the minor league seasons thorugh Tuesday's games:

TRIPLE A DURHAM

RHP Jacob Faria is 2-0 in 4 starts with a 4.12 ERA. He struck out 28 and walked 12 in 19 2/3 innings.

RHP Brent Honeywell, the organization’s 2016 minor league pitcher of the year, is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his 2 starts with the Bulls after starting the season at Double A Montgomery.

After impressive springs in big league camp, RF Jake Bauers and 1B Caey Gillaspie are off to slow starts. Bauers is batting .231 with a team-high 13 run scored and Gillaspie is hitting .179.

3B Patrick Leonard leads the Bulls with a .358 average. He’s driven in 13 runs.

C Curt Casali is batting .294 with 9 RBI, something that might be worth watching since Derek Norris and Jesus Sucre are underwhelming at the major league level.

LF Granden Goetman, from the nearby Palmetto, is batting .323 with 10 RBI.

SS Willy Adames has scored 10 runs and driven in 10 runs but is batting .209.

DOUBLE A MONTGOMERY

CF Nathan Lukes, who came to the Rays from the Indians last summer in the Brandon Guyer trade, leads the Biscuits with a .375 average.

HIGH A CHARLOTTE  …

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Rays morning after: How a bold move paid off in beating O's

Manager Kevin Cash's awareness of how fortunate the Rays were that their bold move worked out in scratching starter Erasmo Ramirez 20 minutes before first pitch because of the potential for an extended rain interruption that never came was evident in his post-game comment tagging one of the leading state-based analytical web sites.

"Great win,'' Cash said after the 2-0 victory over the Orioles. "Man, fangraphs is going to have a field day with that.''

The basis of their decision was concern that the forecast rain would cause a long delay that would artificially limit the innings they would get from Ramirez, who was to make his second start filling in for Jake Odorizzi before returning the bullpen.

They had kicked around a similar plan on Monday so as not to burn top starter Chris Archer but decided the forecast was promising, which proved true as there was no delay until the eighth.

But based in part of the information related by Orioles heads groundskeeper Nicole McFadyen plus what they could find on their phones and computers, Rays brass decided they were better off saving Ramirez and going with rookie Austin Pruitt for starters and the rest of their bullpen.

"We had a stronger forecast of rain tonight,'' Cash said. "We were pretty convinced starting the game starting the game we were going to have some sort of a stoppage within the first hour or so, hour and a half. Their groundskeeper did a tremendous job of keeping us informed, but it adjusted.''

The Orioles, obviously, had access to the same information, but gave no thought of similarly scratching starter Wade Miley.

Was there some chicanery in the Rays making such a late switch?

Manager Buck Showalter was understandably surprised when he got word of the change but insisted it didn't leave them unprepared.

"About, I'd say, 20 minutes before game time,'' he said. "Got a call from Kevin that they were going to start Pruitt. We go over all of them in the advance meeting. We have all the information we need."

In having Pruitt work three innings, Danny Farquhar and Jumbo Diaz the next two, Chase Whitley three and then closer Alex Colome the ninth, the Rays held the Orioles to just two hits, and set down 17 straight in one stretch.

"We kind of managed it like a spring training game and just kept giving different looks to everybody,'' Cash said, "and it just worked in our favor."

Showalter gave them some credit, though noting how the weather has forced cancellation of batting practice the last two days.

"They pitched real well,'' Showalter said. "Made a lot of quality pitches in some really tough conditions. There's a lot of excuses there if you want to reach for them, but we're not going to.''

This was actually the second time the Rays scratched Ramirez from a slated start against the Orioles, also doing so in spring training, substituting lefty Xavier Cedeno against a March 29 lineup built to face a righthander.

 

 

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Late change as Rays switch to Pruitt as starter due to weather

The Rays made a late switch announced just before game time and opted to have rookie RHP Austin Pruitt start rather than RHP Erasmo Ramirez, a move they said was due to uncertainty in the weather forecast in regards to rain interrupting play.

Pruitt, who has been working as a long reliever, last pitched on Saturday, so he is well rested. Though still sporting a 7.94 ERA, he has been pitching better of late, earning wins in his last two outings.

The Rays were looking for at least six inniings from Ramirez, who is making his second start in place of injured RHP Jake Odorizzi, who is due back Monday.

 

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For starters: Here we go again, weather permitting, Rays at O's

The scene in Baltimore this afternoon.

MARC TOPKIN / TAMPA BAY TIMES

The scene in Baltimore this afternoon.

UPDATE, 5:38: The forecast has improved, and the chances for the game to start on time and be played without interruption have increased, though the temperature seems to be dropping. ... Souza said when he woke up and the elbow didn't hurt too bad he texted Cash and said he was good to go. ... Cash said he went with Morrison in the lineup because Miley is not overly tough on lefty hitters and that he wants to get Morrison, Miller and Weeks going. ... RHP Jake Odorizzi's four-inning sim game was pushed back until Wednesday when the Rays hope to be able to get him on the field and so he is on a five-day schedule to return on Monday.

Here is the Orioles lineup:
Smith rf
Jones cf
Machado 3b
Davis 1b
Trumbo dh
Kim lf
Schoop 2b
hardy ss
Joseph c
Miley p


UPDATE, 3:05:
The weather remains uncertain but there is good news for the Rays regarding one injury issue as Souza is in the lineup and in RF. Also, there appears to be a nod toward better defense as Logan Morrison is starting at 1B against the lefty, with Rickie Weeks at DH. That alos means rookie Daniel Robertson is not playing.

Here is the Rays lineup: …

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Rays injury/rehab updates on Odorizzi, Duffy, others

Jake Odorizzi said he is over the left hamstring strain that landed him on the disabled list and ready to return when eligible Wednesday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jake Odorizzi said he is over the left hamstring strain that landed him on the disabled list and ready to return when eligible Wednesday.

Here are updates on severa of the Rays injured players:

* RHP Jake Odorizzi said he is over the left hamstring strain that landed him on the DL and ready to return when eligible Wednesday. But the Rays want him to throw a four-inning simulated game today, which means he likely won't make his return until the next time his slot comes up, on Monday in Miami, where he will have to bat, and run the bases. "I'm back, everything feels normal, I'm just waiting to get the ball,'' he said.

* RHP Tommy Hunter (calf strain) could be sidelined into June.

* LHP Xavier Cedeno (forearm tightness), was seen by team Dr. Koco Eaton and now will get a second opinion this week from noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

* OF Mallex Smith (hamstring) did rehab work in extended spring Monday (and took live batting practice off DL-ed prospect RHP Jose De Leon) and will play for the Stone Crabs tonight.

* OF Colby Rasmus (hip surgery), targeting a Friday return in Toronto, continued his rehab at Double-A Montomery, going 0-for-2 with a walk and is now 1-for-12 in his first four games. …

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Morning after report: Rays wasted too many chances, again

There was good reason to pin Monday's 6-3 loss to the Orioles on Chris Archer, given how he allowed three homers in a five-batter span bridging the sixth and seventh innings, quickly turning a 3-1 advantage into a 5-3 deficit, and didn't have much explanation for it except to say, over and over, that he needs to "execute at a higher level.''

But there was better reason to blame his teammates, who failed repeatedly to expand the early lead they took against Ubaldo Jimenez, with a Corey Dickerson leadoff homer in the first and a two-run double by Shane Peterson in the fourth.

"We definitely let him off the hook, didn't capitalize on some situations,'' OF Steven Souza Jr. said. "We've got to do a better job capitalizing when he's weak and preying on him.''

But this wasn't an isolated incident.

While there has been more attention, understandably, paid to the defensive miscues and bullpen blowups that have cost the Rays, their overall productive offense has shown a lack of killer instinct that surfaced repeatedly. …

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