Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays turn to Will Rhymes when bullpen phone malfunctions

MIAMI — INF Will Rhymes has proved to be versatile in his short time with the Rays, and Sunday he added a new skill: messenger.

With RHP James Shields in a seventh-inning jam and the dugout phone not working, manager Joe Maddon had trouble getting word to the bullpen to get LHP Jake McGee and RHP Burke Badenhop warmed up. He first asked security for walkie-talkies then told home plate umpire Chad Fairchild they needed time.

Rhymes raced to the bullpen and relayed the word, taking a bow as he re-entered the dugout, where he was greeted with high fives.

"It's hard work," Rhymes joked. "But somebody had to do it."

Maddon said they did end up getting walkie-talkies, but there was an initial scramble, and Rhymes made the most sense.

"He looked the fastest," Maddon said. "The pitchers are so disinterested at that point, been eating the whole game, not able to run down. He was eager, he had that look in his eye."

SS Elliot Johnson said he looked over at Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who was "playing with Joe, acting like he had yanked the cord out." It was just one of the quirks of the Marlins' new $515 million ballpark.

"That kind of stuff does happen," Maddon said. "But you'd like to think they got it right here the first time. You know, when Fenway breaks down, you kind of expect it."

BIG BLAST: Johnson said he was trying to keep it simple in his fourth-inning at-bat, looking to hit a sacrifice fly — anything to bring 2B Ben Zobrist in from third.

He ended up ripping a two-run homer to rightfield, a big play in the Rays' 4-2 win. It capped a strong series for Johnson, who had a career-high four hits and three RBIs in Saturday's win.

What stood out to Johnson is that he hit an offspeed pitch out of the park.

"How many offspeed pitches do I hit for home runs? Not that many," Johnson said. "Only the guys that hit 300, 400 (homers) in their career are hitting offspeed stuff. He left a changeup up out over the plate and I got enough of it to get the job done. I was just trying to keep it as simple as possible, and it certainly worked out."

ON TRACK: LF Desmond Jennings has seemingly picked up where he left off since being activated from the disabled list Tuesday. Jennings, who missed about a month with a left knee sprain, has hit safely in each of his six games back, including two doubles and a triple. Maddon said Jennings is moving easily on the bases and in the field and likes his "quick bat."

"I'm feeling good, I don't really feel different from when I left to now," Jennings said. "I missed almost a month and I don't feel completely lost. I've had no problems, no issues, so hopefully I can keep it up."

REMEMBER ME?: Former Rays OF Justin Ruggiano has enjoyed his opportunity with the Marlins and made Tampa Bay pay Saturday night with a double and a three-run homer, tying his career high with three RBIs. Ruggiano pinch-hit Sunday and belted a double in the sixth.

Ruggiano, who spent 2007-11 in the Rays organization, has had a whirlwind offseason, getting designated for assignment by Tampa Bay in January, signing a minor-league deal with the Astros then being traded to Miami in late May. Ruggiano played a combined 98 games for the Rays, with six homers and 23 RBIs.

"He's a good hitter," Shields said. "It's definitely well deserved, he's in the big leagues with the Marlins right now, he's finally getting his shot. I knew when he was playing with us, it's kind of hard to break through that outfield. He's a good player."

Maddon said he's happy for Ruggiano. "He's a real nice player and sometimes the next organization that gets somebody benefits," he said. "He can do a lot of things, I know that."

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