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Jalen Beeks gives Rays hope their pitching is taking shape

Jalen Beeks picks up the victory in his second outing for the Rays since arriving in a trade with the Red Sox for Nathan Eovaldi. Beeks and the Rays beat the Angels 4-2 Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, at Tropicana Field. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Published Aug. 2, 2018
Updated Aug. 3, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays, on most days, truly have a hard enough time knowing who is going to pitch their next game, based on whether they have one of their few traditional starters available; if they instead decide to use an opener and, if so, who; and which relieving starter is ready and able to cover the bulk of the innings.

But after what they saw the past two games from a pair of young arms just acquired in trades, the Rays have good reason to feel they're in better hands.

After "oohing" over the power show by right-hander Tyler Glasnow on Wednesday, the Rays were "aahing" over the improved command and control lefty Jalen Beeks displayed in Thursday's 4-2 series-sweeping win over the Angels at the Trop.

Between the injuries and the innovations and the inconsistent performances they have navigated, the reinforcements give them reason to feel good about the future, whatever form it's in.

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"Very good about it,'' pitching coach Kyle Snyder said. "Just in terms of what they've done, what they've accomplished at the highest level of the minor leagues and what ultimately is going to transfer to this level in time, there's no doubt. I think both those guys have shown extremely well, and we have reason to feel pretty good about them.''

The Rays weren't sure what to think or feel about Beeks with the mess he made Saturday against the Orioles in his first outing after being acquired from Boston for two-month rental Nathan Eovaldi.

At the core of his troubles — allowing eight runs on 10 hits and three walks in 3⅓ innings — was falling behind in the count.

On Thursday, after some remedial work with Snyder and bullpen coach Stan Boroski, Beeks looked like a different pitcher.

Or at least one with a different approach.

The 25-year-old threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of 18 hitters over five strong innings, not allowing a hit over the first four and only two total (though they led to two runs), striking out four.

"It's amazing what throwing the ball over the plate and throwing strikes can do,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "Kyle is a magic man. Him and Stan, and Jalen buying in a little bit. It was nice to see.''

That's because Beeks' success is rooted in sequencing and pitch selection. A squat 5 feet 11, he used a fastball that was clocked only once, per mlb.com data, as high as 93 mph but a bit deceptive in delivery to set up a curveball he threw more frequently and a changeup.

"He was a little more settled on the mound, and I think once he got through the first inning on 10 pitches and throwing a lot of strikes, that gave him a little momentum, a little confidence to go back out there. He did a really nice job,'' Cash said. "He pitched to the edges, but he was on the plate, and that's his game. He just mixed and matched, and mixed and matched.''

Glasnow, 24, acquired from Pittsburgh as part of the return for Chris Archer, conversely is all power, harnessing his 6-foot-8 frame to throw the ball hard and, the Rays hope, frequently over the plate.

"How can you not be impressed with the stuff coming out of his hand?'' Cash said. "He was 94 his first fastball and after that sat 96-99 miles an hour. It doesn't look like he's overthrowing, that's just him. It looks like he's placing the ball in the catcher's mitt. He's going to be really successful.''

The Angels seemed to feel that way after seeing him just for three innings Wednesday, racking up five strikeouts.

"He looked really good,'' outfielder Kole Calhoun said. "Big time fastball, good breaking ball. Definitely good stuff.''

Getting two top young pitchers is important. Getting two with opposite style is intriguing.

"Tyler and Beeks are very different,'' Cash said. "They look different. Their velocity is a lot different. You'd like to think if you get them on the right stretch, they can kind of complement each other … outing to outing. Both of them can be very good. They just get there a little differently.''

So what do the Rays have going forward?

That depends, first, on how they choose to deploy their arms. Cash said the plans are to use Glasnow, who had been in the Pirates bullpen, as a traditional starter, which will give the Rays a pair with All-Star Blake Snell set to return Saturday from the disabled list.

Then they have the group of starters who, for now, are being used primarily in relief behind openers: Beeks, Ryan Yarbrough (who leads all rookies with 10 wins), Yonny Chirinos, Jake Faria, possibly Wilmer Font (when he comes off the DL) and Jose Mujica. Also to be slotted in is Andrew Moore, acquired in May from Seattle in the Alex Colome/Denard Span deal and is at Triple A.

And there are the three starters who will be sidelined at least into next season recovering from Tommy John surgery: Brent Honeywell, Jose De Leon and Anthony Banda.

"It's still really early,'' Cash said. "All those guys, they have reason (for us) to be really optimistic. And all those guys have some reasons that we need to be concerned and continue helping them progress at this level. But there's a lot of talent there.''

And two more pieces than there was.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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