PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays staff and players have marveled for more than a year about how hard RHP Nathan Eovaldi worked out, how determined he was in battling back from a second Tommy John surgery, how impressive he was in bullpens and batting practice.
Then Tuesday, they got to see him pitch.
"It was great to see Nate obviously," manager Kevin Cash said. "That was probably the highlight, to see him pumping 98 miles an hour. Looked 100 percent healthy. … Really impressive on his part."
Eovaldi started with that 98 mph fastball, and retired all four batters he faced in the 2-1 loss to Baltimore, pitching coach Kyle Snyder deciding 14 pitches (11 strikes) were plenty in Eovaldi's first outing vs. major-league hitters since Aug. 2016 with the Yankees.
"I was amped up, I was excited to be back out there," Eovaldi said. "It felt good to be back."
Eovaldi was pleased with his fastball and splitter, not as much with the slider and curveball he plans to incorporate more often.
Missing Matt Duffy
After missing all of last season with lingering left foot issues, 3B Matt Duffy's health and play has been one of the early spring success stories. So there naturally was concern when he was scratched from Tuesday's lineup, though the Rays insisted it wasn't anything more than a back spasm.
"Nothing alarming at all," Cash said. "He would have played if it was a regular-season game."
Honeywell has TJ surgery
Top Rays pitching prospect Brent Honeywell underwent what the team said was "successful" Tommy John elbow surgery Tuesday by Dr. James Andrews.
Honeywell, 22, tore his ulnar collateral ligament on Thursday throwing batting practice. Given the usual 15-month recovery followed by a rehab assignment, Honeywell — who was expected to make it to the majors at some point this season is likely to be out until around the 2019 All-Star break.
Expect the Rays to option Honeywell to the minors so he doesn't accrue major-league service time while on the DL, though that essentially leaves them operating with a 39-man roster. If they needed a 40-man roster spot, they could call him up for the purpose of putting him on the 60-day DL to make room, though doing so would give Honeywell major-league pay and service time.
Birthday boy Denard Span – 34 now – sparked the Rays to a first-inning lead with a leadoff single. … LHP Jose Alvarado had another impressive inning, with two strikeouts. … RHP Austin Pruitt gave up both runs, including a homer to Garabez Rosa. … C Wilson Ramos had two hits.
• INF Daniel Robertson is slated for his first outfield game action Wednesday, starting in left against the Twins as the Rays seek to increase his versatility as he already plays second, third and shortstop, and well.
• CF Kevin Kiermaier is being used primarily as a DH early in the exhibition season to keep him off his feet and fresh while getting his at-bats, Cash said.
• INF Brad Miller has not played since Friday is due to a broken right pinky toe with no set return date yet, Cash said.
• Formal announcement of OF Carlos Gomez's signing and his arrival in camp remains delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic.