Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Odorizzi sharp in start against minor-leaguers

PORT CHARLOTTE — For a guy who had to work on a hot afternoon when the rest of his teammates had the day off, RHP Jake Odorizzi made the best of his Wednesday minor-league start.

Odorizzi pitched five solid shutout innings against a Boston Class A minor-league team that included impressive Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada, allowing three hits while walking none and striking out four and throwing 53 of his 77 pitches for strikes.

"I'm happy with how everything went," Odorizzi said, "and I'm happy with how my arm feels right now."

As much as the work on his pitches, featuring the cutter and slider for a couple of innings, Odorizzi said the bigger accomplishment was working through five innings, having gone 1, 11/3 and 31/3 in his previous outings.

"The first time you go out there for five innings, you feel like you are out there for forever after you haven't been out there for more than two or three," he said. "It was good to get up and down that many times, especially with the heat out there."

Odorizzi, pitching from the No. 3 slot in the Rays rotation, has something of an odd spring schedule as he was lined up to throw on Wednesday's off day and again Monday, when the Rays will be working out in Cuba in advance of Tuesday's exhibition. As a result, Odorizzi will stay in Port Charlotte and throw in another minor-league game Monday, stretching out to 90 pitches.

"It would've been cool to go to see, but at the same time I know that a trip to Cuba wouldn't be worth setting me back for the season," he said. RHP Erasmo Ramirez also will stay home, as he is slated to pitch in Wednesday's exhibition in Fort Myers against the Twins.

While some pitchers don't like pitching on the back fields against low-level minor-leaguers, Odorizzi said he still finds it a productive exercise, even working through trouble in his one messy inning. Also of note, he got Moncada out twice, on a grounder to short and a strikeout.

"I'm not changing anything if I'm in the stadium or back here," he said. "From the work standpoint, the effort level was the same. My stuff was really good. So I can't be disappointed with anything I did (Wednesday), which is always a good thing in spring."

The Rays had big-leaguer Rene Rivera catch Odorizzi, though they didn't allow Rivera to bat given the potential control issue with lower-level minor-leaguers.

HI VARONA: OF Dayron Varona has been, and for the next week will continue to be, in the spotlight as he gets to make an unexpected trip back to his native Cuba for the Rays' exhibition.

But Varona, who signed last May and spent most of 2015 at Double-A Montgomery, has been impressing the Rays with what he does on the field.

"He's an interesting guy," manager Kevin Cash said. "He can run, he can really throw … he's pretty aggressive at the plate. He likes to swing."

MEDICAL MATTERS: 2B Logan Forsythe received treatment Wednesday on the right elbow that was hit by a pitch Tuesday and is expected to be in the lineup today. … Steve Pearce, who last played March 7 due to right calf tightness, is slated to return today as the DH.

PITCHING IN: The Rays are planning on having Ramirez work in a minor-league game Friday rather than face the divisional opponent Red Sox, and may do the same with LHP Drew Smyly on Sunday against the Orioles. … RHP Chris Archer, as of now, is slated to pitch Saturday against the Orioles, whom he would face in his second start of the season.

MISCELLANY: Former Rays INF/OF Eduardo Perez will be part of ESPN's crew televising Tuesday's exhibition from Havana, along with Karl Ravech, Doug Glanville, Pedro Gomez and Tim Kurkjian. "I'm excited," Perez said. "I really am. … I'm honored to be a part of it." Archer, who did some postseason TV work for ESPN, also may be part of the broadcast. … The Phillies will be wearing green-accented uniforms for today's St. Patrick's Day game.

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