Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Jennings hits first spring HR in Rays power show

PORT CHARLOTTE — A knee injury and surgery kept Rays OF Desmond Jennings out of all but 28 games last season, a fact he constantly tries to forget. Because now, Jennings said, he feels healthier than he has in a long time.

And in the third inning of the Rays' 5-1 win against the Pirates on Thursday, that positivity translated to the field.

After a single from 2B Logan Forsythe, Jennings sent the first pitch he saw over the leftfield wall for his first home run of the spring, the Rays' fourth.

Jennings' big hit was just a glimpse of the offensive success the Rays have had lately, something the outfielder attributes to a fresh approach for a fresh start.

"We've got talent. We've got pretty good hitters," Jennings said. "We've been trying to be more aggressive, taking a more aggressive approach, taking good swings on strikes. And whatever happens happens."

With Forsythe, who finished 3-for-3, leading off and Jennings in the two-hole, Rays manager Kevin Cash witnessed a lot of power in the top of his lineup Thursday.

"Both those balls those guys hit … they were just smoked," Cash said, referencing Forsythe's double in the fifth inning. "We've said it a lot. Desmond's a special player. We want him on the field. Now let us help him stay on the field."

Though it's still early in the decision-making process, Cash said Forsythe's leadoff spot could carry over to the regular season. Cash plans to try different guys there in the coming weeks, but getting Forsythe extra at-bats could be a good move for the offense, he said.

"It's more or less right now, let's find some comfort, get a sense of where he's at with it," Cash said. "The last thing we'd want to do with anybody is ambush them in a position — whether it's first, ninth or fourth, wherever they're hitting — and not let them kind of get somewhat acquainted with that spot."

RAISING THE COUNT: After a shoulder injury shortened his 2015 season, LHP Drew Smyly made his second start of the spring. And from the very first pitch, he seemed to pick up right where he left off.

Smyly, who pitched two shutout innings on March 5 against the Orioles, pitched 31/3 innings, giving up two hits and striking out three. After the game Smyly said his arm felt good, and he was happy to get deeper into the game — the plan was for him to throw around 50 pitches, Smyly added — than he did last week.

And though he started his comeback on the right foot last fall when he came back to close out the season, Smyly is ready to put the past — both good and bad — behind him.

"That's why we all play. We love the game. It stinks when you're hurt, but it's part of the game," he said. "It was a big boost to just go into the offseason knowing I'm healthy and the same guy, but I've already forgotten about last year, and I'm focused on this year."

Now that he's been reacquainted with what his lefty has to offer, Cash is, too.

Cash said they're thrilled with where Smyly is at this point in the spring, noting that opponents are having a tough time getting a barrel on his pitches.

"It was fun to see him out there. He was efficient, just kind of attacked the strike zone," Cash said. "It's exciting to envision having him healthy and what he's capable of doing, anchoring a big part of our staff."

GAME PLAY: The Rays had a good day at the plate against the Pirates, notching 12 hits in a 5-1 victory. In addition to Jennings and Forsythe, seven other Rays had hits, including 1B James Loney, who singled in the second and fourth innings. Smyly, who left in the fourth, was one of seven Rays pitchers. The staff had one walk and gave up one earned run, when OF Michael Suchy hit a first-pitch home run off LHP Adam Wilk in the eighth.

MISCELLANY: Before the game, Forsythe was presented with a framed print of his public service ad for the Taylor Hooten Foundation's "It's All Me" campaign, which advocates against performance enhancing drugs. Forsythe is a member of the foundation's active players advisory board. … On Wednesday, OF Steven Souza Jr. returned to the lineup for the first time this spring, but INF/OF Steve Pearce was scratched because of tightness in his right calf. Cash said it was mostly a precautionary move. "He's getting better," Cash said. "Still has some soreness in there, so we'll continue to take it slow."

Comments
Rays infielder Daniel Robertson lends a hand to help families dealing with cancer

Rays infielder Daniel Robertson lends a hand to help families dealing with cancer

Rays infielder Daniel Robertson has much to be excited about heading into his second season in the majors.But before packing for spring training, he took some time last weekend to provide help for families needing assistance in dealing with cancer.Hi...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Ex-Rays star Longoria dons Giants jersey, looks forward to full-stadium environment in San Francisco

Ex-Rays star Longoria dons Giants jersey, looks forward to full-stadium environment in San Francisco

Longtime Rays star Evan Longoria was formally introduced in San Francisco today, adding the visual of him pulling on his new Giants jersey, switching to No. 10 since 3 is retired.Longoria said he welcomed the chance to play on a contending team stock...
Updated: 10 hours ago
What do Rays look like now? What will they look like March 29?

What do Rays look like now? What will they look like March 29?

ST. PETERSBURG — Since entering an off-season planning major change and pledging to be open to "anything and everything,'' the Rays have made a few minor moves and one massive one in trading franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria to San Francisco....
Published: 01/19/18
Reminder: Rays spring tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

Reminder: Rays spring tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale today at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at the...
Published: 01/19/18
Tampa Bay Rays 2018 spring training schedule

Tampa Bay Rays 2018 spring training schedule

Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Rd., Port Charlotte, 33948Get tickets here: (941) 206-4487Pitchers report: Feb. 13. Squad reports: Feb. 19TEAM SCHEDULE(games at 1:05 unless noted)(ss - split squad)Feb 23 at Orioles (ss) (Sarasota)Feb 23 PIRATE...
Published: 01/19/18
Ex-Phillies, Indians manager Charlie Manuel to get Ted Williams Museum award

Ex-Phillies, Indians manager Charlie Manuel to get Ted Williams Museum award

Former Phillies and Indians manager Charlie Manuel will receive the Ted Williams Lifetime Achievement Award on Feb. 10 in Clearwater.The honor is bestowed by the Ted Williams Museum at its annual Hitters Hall of Fame induction, moving this year from ...
Published: 01/19/18
Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Former Rays OF Matt Joyce to hold annual charity baseball camp at North Brandon complex

Armwood High product Matt Joyce, the current A's and former Rays outfielder, hosts his ninth annual Sweet Swingin' charity baseball camp for kids 6-12 on Sunday at the North Brandon youth baseball complex (2929 S Kingsway Rd, Seffner).Registration st...
Published: 01/18/18
Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

Rays spring tickets go on sale Friday

The Rays will put single game tickets for spring training home games on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via raysbaseball.com.The Rays are playing 14 home games in Port Charlotte, starting with the Feb. 23 opener vs. Pittsburgh. Tickets will be available at th...
Published: 01/17/18
A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

With the start of spring training now less than a month away, here is what the Rays roster looks like, with the most glaring hole at first base, which at this point seems likely to be manned by Brad Miller, and some questions about the pitching staff...
Published: 01/17/18
Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

The Rays' March 29 season-opener against the Red Sox has been set for a 4 p.m. first pitch at Tropicana Field.This will be the ninth straight year the Rays have opened at home, and the third time they have opened against the rival Red Sox.  The ...
Published: 01/17/18