Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays rave about Souza's spectacular catch

ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. got some pretty high praise after making a spectacular running, diving, flying-through-the-air catch in front of the right-centerfield wall Wednesday.

"That was Platinum-ish," said Gold and Platinum Glove-winning CF Kevin Kiermaier.

Souza took a good route back and toward the wall for the fourth-inning drive by the Orioles' Chris Davis, then took flight just before the warning track. Per MLB Statcast, he covered 88 feet at a top speed of 19.5 mph.

"Once I left my feet, I thought there was a prayer," Souza said. "And then I kind of accelerated through my jump and then I knew I could get it."

LHP Matt Moore said it was the best catch he ever saw when he was on the mound. He showed it, raising both arms then covering his mouth with his glove to share his true excitement.

"I didn't think anybody is going to catch that ball, and that was everything he had there," Moore said. "There was no more he could have reached out for."

Souza said he had to go farther, but it was hard to rate that catch as better than the one he made for the Nationals to preserve Jordan Zimmerman's 2014 no-hitter.

Rays manager Kevin Cash was impressed, anyway: "That was KK-esque."

UN-BOXED: Closer Brad Boxberger was pleased after throwing about 25 pitches (fastballs and changeups) in what he considered his first "full intensity" bullpen in his recovery from March 17 core muscle repair surgery.

"It went really well. I felt good, I felt strong, everything felt like where it should be," the right-hander said. "It's always a big step to get off the mound again and add that extra little pressure on the body and add the extra angle to it, and everything went well."

Boxberger will throw two more bullpen sessions and two live batting practices. Then he'll start a rehab assignment of about a half-dozen appearances with the idea of returning in mid to late May and being ready to step right into regular duty, including back-to-back assignments.

"We're definitely taking it easy to begin with just to make sure everything comes back strong and bounces back day after day," he said. "Coming back here I'm going to be ready to go full blast and be able to go out there every day and compete. It's just going to be a matter of getting back to that condition."

EVERYDAY ERASMO: RHP Erasmo Ramirez has done everything the Rays could have wanted, working as a late-inning reliever and making a spot start.

Cash said the challenge now is to make sure not to get too greedy.

"You cannot ask for more than what he's done for us," Cash said. "Now going forward we have to continue to balance that because he's so important. If it was up to myself, we'd probably want him in there every single night. And Erasmo is so eager to pitch all the time, we have to be smart with how we're handling him."

The plan has been for Ramirez to go back to starting in mid May, but could his success in the pen — and the potential to put top prospect Blake Snell in the rotation — impact the decision?

"No, not at all," Cash said. "I think that right now this is the best way for him to impact our team. I think we all looked at Erasmo, as much of a difficult decision it was to take him out of the rotation and go with four starters, we knew he would be impacting us in a big way. And he's probably done it even in a bigger way."

MISCELLANY: The Rays were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position in the three-game series. … Starting today, the Rays have three more off days in an eight-day span. … OF/DH Corey Dickerson tied the team record in being intentionally walked twice Tuesday, the first since Evan Longoria, by the Yankees on July 2, 2014. … Hank Conger was behind the plate after Curt Casali started nine of the previous 11 games. … The Dodgers next week make their first visit to the Trop since 2007.

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