Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Cash willing to let Rays starters work longer, if they earn it

MINNEAPOLIS — Manager Kevin Cash knows, and from more than LHP Matt Moore's postgame comments Thursday, that the Rays' starters want to work deeper in games.

And he is more than willing to let them — as long as they deserve to do so.

"As an organization, as a staff, as a team, we want our starters to go deeper in ball games," Cash said. "We understand they are kind of the foundation of us having success. This organization has been built around having successful starters. And we need to get back to that. Saying that, they've got to pitch well. I think our starters understand that situation and understand that they are very capable of pitching better and giving us better opportunities to win."

Moore's point Thursday was primarily that, despite having thrown 96 pitches over five innings, he had "more to give." Cash said that a 95-105 pitch range makes for tough decisions and he is glad the starters want to stay in, but he and pitching coach Jim Hickey have to do what's best for the team at that time. "We've made it clear to … all the starters, for us to turn this around a lot relies on their shoulders," Cash said. "They've got to pitch better."

After Friday's 4-2 win against the Twins, the Rays' top four starters — Chris Archer, Moore, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly — had a combined record of 9-20 and a 4.56 ERA. In that game, Cash allowed Odorizzi to throw a career-high 120 pitches as he allowed two runs over six innings.

"We've got to overlook some of the stats right now and what's been taking place the last couple weeks and kind of put the blinders on, nose to the ground and let's get on a roll," Cash said. "And we're going to do that by pitching and going out and having quality starts."

PEARCE UPDATE: INF Steve Pearce said the sore right elbow that kept him out of the starting lineup for a third straight game is "getting a lot better" with rest and he is nearing a return. Cash said Pearce might return first as a DH, though the Rays will be under NL rules Monday-Wednesday in Arizona.

DRAFT BREEZE: Rays officials are gathered at Tropicana Field preparing for next week's draft, which starts for them with the No. 13 pick Thursday.

New director of amateur scouting Rob Metzler said there is no certain strength to this year's draft class in any of "the quadrants" — college pitchers, college position players, high school pitchers, high school position players — and thus the Rays aren't certain what to do with that first pick.

"There is still uncertainty with what is going to happen up top ahead of us, and in terms of what we're looking at, we have really good options. We're hoping that there will be really good options available (in each quadrant)," Metzler said during a Friday conference call. "It's hard to know what's going to be available for us. So we're going to kind of line them up, up to 13 and then beyond, and hope we get a good one."

JONNY BE GOOD: LHP Jonny Venters, trying to come back from a third Tommy John surgery, joined advanced Class A Charlotte and was slated to pitch tonight in Tampa, his first appearance in a regular-season game at any level since 2012.

REHAB REPORT: 2B Logan Forsythe advanced to taking swings in the batting cage as he continues his rehab from a fractured left shoulder, eyeing a mid-June return. … CF Kevin Kiermaier had the stitches removed from his surgically repaired broken left hand and today was to start range-of-motion exercises. … RHP Ryan Webb, on the DL with a pec strain, was to play catch for the first time today.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria hit his team-leading 11th homer. … OF Desmond Jennings was out of the lineup for a second straight day. Mikie Mahtook started in center. … Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson will join Aaron Goldsmith in the booth for today's FS1 regional telecast.

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