Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez starts strong in battle for starting shortstop job

PORT CHARLOTTE — Without knowing what Rays officials will consider most important in picking a starting shortstop, Sean Rodriguez figures he had better do everything he can to beat out Reid Brignac for the job.

Rodriguez got off to a good start in a 5-3 exhibition loss Sunday to the Twins, reaching base three times, making a stellar defensive play and sliding hard into second to prevent a double play.

"Whatever it is that is going to make that difference, if it's something I don't know about, it can come on the defensive end or the offensive end or the base­running end," Rodriguez said. "I have to be playing basically like if it's the regular season. That's how it should be always, but it makes it a little more fulfilling knowing they're going to be watching your every move."

Rodriguez was hit by a pitch his first time up, a fitting start as he was hit a team-record 18 times last season. "Got to keep working on my hit by pitches," he said.

HELLY HAPPY: RHP Jeremy Hellickson was pleased overall with his two-inning, 22-pitch outing, throwing a handful of cutters, a pitch he hopes to mix in more this season. "I'm happy," he said. "I threw a lot of strikes (16)."

THAT'S A RELIEF: LHP Jake McGee was quite relieved to get through a bullpen session Sunday given the discoloration and net markings on his left elbow, a few days after a freak accident when he was watching batting practice with his arms resting on the cage and was struck by a ball that bounced up. "I was like, 'What are the odds of that?' " McGee said. "I'm lucky. … It was very scary." His first game appearance is Thursday.

LOCKED AND LOADED: Engaged in a battle to keep his spot in the rotation, and unhappy with how he began last year, RHP Wade Davis isn't treating today's spring debut as just an exhibition.

"I'm looking at it differently," he said. "In general, whether it's a competition or not, I want to get off to a better start, and I'm going to. I've prepared myself physically to be ready for that. I'm ready to go out (today) and pitch like it's June or July. It's a little different mentality for me. I definitely want the opportunity to get that starting job.

"I'm just going to go out there and compete from Day 1, and however it plays out is what we'll land on."

MEDICAL MATTERS: 3B Evan Longoria flashed a thumbs-up with his bruised right hand and said Tuesday looks set for his exhibition debut. … LHP Matt Moore said Saturday's bullpen session, his first time throwing off a mound in eight days, went well, with no issues from the mild lower abdominal strain that had sidelined him: "It was like back to normal." Moore throws again today, then batting practice Thursday, with his first game, potentially, by the weekend.

IN THE SWING: 1B Carlos Peña, DH Luke Scott and OF Sam Fuld will take "live" batting practice today off RHPs Kyle Farns­worth and Brandon Gomes, a precursor to their first game action.

Peña is likely for Tuesday, Scott and Fuld by the end of the week.

GAME DETAILS: Two-run homers allowed by new relievers Burke Badenhop (to Chris Parmalee in the sixth) and Josh Lueke (to J.R. Towles in the ninth) were the difference. … OF Matt Joyce, playing back-to-back games since the injured list is so long (and MLB requires four frontline players in a spring lineup), singled in the first run. … LHP J.P. Howell stood out with a crisp 1-2-3 inning. … RHP Fernando Rodney allowed two hits and threw a wild pitch in his Rays debut.

IN THE SADDLE: Saturday's seventh inning was a bit messy, with a hit and two walks, but it was memorable for RHP Ricky Orta, his first formal game in more than two years as he worked his way back from elbow surgery.

"My brain was going crazy," he said. "I was excited, I had butterflies in my stomach."

MISCELLANY: ESPN's bus comes to camp today with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk reporting for the 3:30 p.m. Baseball Tonight show. … The announced crowd was 5,346, well short of a sellout.

 
Comments
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

ST. PETERSBURG – Rookie 1B Jake Bauers has impressed at the plate and in the field since his June 7 promotion.Also, with his hustling on the bases."I knew he played hard; everybody said that at every level,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I di...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Published: 06/20/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Published: 06/20/18
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Published: 06/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Times sports columnist Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to discuss Kevin Kiermaier's return to the Rays, whether Victor Hedman should win the Norris Trophy for the NHL's best defenseman, Bucs expectations for this season and Barry Trotz's next c...
Published: 06/20/18
How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

There was some interesting inside baseball elements that factored into the late innings of Tuesday's 2-1 Rays win.* First, on Matt Duffy's double off reliever Hector Rondon to lead off the eighth.Duffy said he doesn't like "to guess" what a pitcher i...
Published: 06/20/18
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18