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A winding route to Rays' walkoff replay reversal role

Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey (48) talks with starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) in the first inning of the game on Opening Day between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 3, 2016. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey (48) talks with starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) in the first inning of the game on Opening Day between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 3, 2016. WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jeremy Sowers won his last big-league game as a pitcher for the Indians in September 2009. So how did he end up in the Rays' video-replay room getting credit for the review of Jose Bautista's slide into second that led to Tuesday's controversial victory over the Blue Jays?

After injuries forced Sowers off the mound for good in 2013, he first got an MBA from North Carolina, spent a summer working in corporate strategy for Wal-Mart ("It was fun-ish"), then decided to get back into the game.

He interned last summer for the Orioles in baseball operations and analytics and, through a connection with VP Chaim Bloom, got hired by the Rays as a major-league operations assistant, with duties working on preparing and disseminating advance scouting reports and manning the video replay controls.

Eventually Sowers, 32, would like to advance to a front-office role. For now, he's just happy to be involved.

"All I want to do is help a team win," he said. "I think being away from the game allowed me to get a greater appreciation for the game itself. When you're here playing every day, you get in this bubble and it's hard to understand how privileged it is."

Rays baseball operations president Matt Silverman said Sowers' combination of education, pro experience and dedication to the game made him an appealing addition to the staff.

"Manning the replay button is a big part of Jeremy's role, but he is also intimately involved in our advance process," Silverman said.

"As a former player, he understands the inner workings of a clubhouse. That's a big asset for him as he manages the information flow with our coaches and players."

THE ARCH WAY: RHP Chris Archer didn't think his opening day performance was that bad, overcoming a shaky first to work five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and striking out 12 while throwing 107 pitches.

But he also knows he can be better tonight, facing an Orioles lineup he considers as potent as the Blue Jays.

"There were a couple of things," he said. "I think at the end of the day it all stems from fastball command. And that was only in one inning. The rest, when you have a high number of strikeouts, your pitch count is going to be a little elevated.

"So if I could have eliminated some damage in that first inning, I would have done a better job of getting deeper, saving the bullpen, all the things that go into being a successful starting pitcher."

OLD FRIEND ALERT: OF Joey Rickard spent the previous four seasons working his way through the Rays' minor-league system, making it to Triple A in August. But, as a result of the Rays' not adding him to their 40-man roster in November, he has made it to the majors, selected by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft and making their opening day roster. "It's pretty awesome,'' Rickard said in Baltimore. "There's no hard feelings or anything. It will be fun, just playing against my old team.''

MINOR MATTERS: Top prospect LHP Blake Snell went five innings, allowing two runs on five hits with five strikeouts, in Triple-A Durham's 7-3 win over Charlotte (White Sox). … RHP Jacob Faria allowed three runs working into the sixth of Double-A Montgomery's opener at Jackson (Mariners). … RHP Brent Honeywell, who made news with his tweets about Nats star Bryce Harper, allowed one run in six innings of advanced Class A Charlotte's 5-3 loss at Palm Beach (Cardinals).

MISCELLANY: Free agent RHP Adam Reifer, who was in Rays big-league camp before being reassigned and released, was suspended 80 games by MLB after testing positive for Ostarine, a performance-enhancing substance. … Rays pitchers have struck out 10 or more hitters in three of the first four games. ... In his 37 career games at the Trop, C Curt Casali is one of two players to hit a homer offf the B-ring catwalk (also Frank Thomas) and one of four to hit the A-ring catwalk (also Jason Kubel, Carlos Peña, Bautista).

A winding route to Rays' walkoff replay reversal role 04/07/16 [Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2016 12:19am]
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