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Rays Journal: Mallex Smith excited to see grandmother honored by MLB

Willie Mae Footman was chosen Honorary Bat Girl.
Mallex Smith's grandmother, Willie Mae Footman, will be honored by the Rays and MLB. [Special to the Times}
Mallex Smith's grandmother, Willie Mae Footman, will be honored by the Rays and MLB. [Special to the Times}
Published May 10, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG – OF Mallex Smith tends to make things happen, one way or another, whenever he is on the field.

He is greatly looking forward to sharing that stage with his maternal grandmother, Willie Mae Footman, who was announced Wednesday as the Rays Honorary Bat Girl for the annual MLB-wide "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative commemorated on Mother's Day.

"It means a lot,'' Smith said. "For me she is like the glue of our family.''

Footman, 68, is more than eight years past her diagnosis of breast cancer. She has spent much of her life working with kids, retiring from posts with Leon County Schools, the Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Department and the Girl Scouts. She also has done extensive community service work.

Because the Rays will be on the road Sunday, she will be recognized at the May 27th game and receive pink MLB merchandise.  "For her to be honored in a way that's bigger than just in Tallahassee means a lot to me,'' he said.

Statistical anomalies

The Rays at least ended on an odd streak: Over the previous 21 days (since a 7-2 loss to Texas April 17), they either won or they lost a game by one run, going 11-5. … The Rays were the first American League team to lose 12 one-run games in their first 33 of the season since the 1953 St. Louis Browns, and now the first in 34 since the 1989 Blue Jays. … Thanks to a strike three wild pitch, LHP Blake Snell and RHP Ryne Stanek combined for four strikeouts in the seventh Tuesday. It was third time in Rays history they went 4K in an inning, also by RHP Alex Cobb on May 10, 2013, and RHP Jeremy Hellickson on Aug. 25, 2011. … Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. — at 20 years, 141 days — on Tuesday became the youngest to homer in a 1-0 game since Phil Cavarretta for the Cubs on Sept. 25, 1935.

Medical matters: Eovaldi, Hechavarria, Romo

RHP Nathan Eovaldi worked two innings for Class A Charlotte at Fort Myers, throwing 32 pitches (22 strikes) in allowing a run and two hits while striking out three, in the second of four planned rehab starts. Eovaldi, who had arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage pieces from his elbow March 30, will move up next to Durham and is eyeing a return around May 24. … SS Adeiny Hechavarria,  knocked out of Tuesday's game when he got hit in the left eye by a popup that caromed off a speaker attached to the catwalk, was not in the lineup but manager Kevin Cash said he was okay and expected to play Friday: "All good. He's fine. A little banged up, a little sore.'' … RHP Sergio Romo was checked after twisting his left ankle on the mound in the ninth but stayed in.

Number of the day

16

Consecutive games with a hit for C Wilson Ramos, the longest current streak in the majors and  longest for any Rays catcher, three shy of the team record and his career high.
Jonny be good

The combination of pitching against his old Braves team and pitching at home with his new Rays team for the first time made Tuesday a little different for veteran LHP Jonny Venters as he worked a scoreless ninth. "I was pretty nervous just seeing those (Braves) guys over there,'' he said Wednesday. "My heart was racing. It was exciting for me. And coming out and having some of the fans cheer for me was definitely a special thing. So it was good, good all around.''

Miscellany

• 3B Matt Duffy sparked the eighth-inning rally by drawing a walk in a career-high 13-pitch at-bat to load the bases ahead of Ramos' single.

• Good seeing two familiar Rays faces at the Trop: C Dioner Navarro, who is no longer playing but still lives in Tampa, and former pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who has that job with the Braves.

• Though Braves 2B Ozzie Albies deserved credit for making a great play in leaping to snag Denard Span's ninth-inning liner Tuesday, Smith made a bad one in allowing himself to get doubled off.

• Class A Bowling Green's winning streak ended at 10 with a 5-4 loss in 10 innings.