PORT CHARLOTTE – Charlie Morton is 35, has spent 17 years in pro ball and pitched in more than 450 games, including pennant and World Series clinchers.
And he still will have the feels when he makes his Rays spring debut Friday against the Orioles in Sarasota.
“The day I stop caring about games I pitch in, even if they are spring training, that’s the day I’ll know I’ve got to shut it down,’’ Morton said, “and I know I’m not going to get to that point. It doesn’t matter - if I’m facing hitters, even if it’s live BP or a sim game or something like that, I still want to still get guys out.’’
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There was some discussion if Morton would pitch Friday vs. the Orioles or throw a sim game at the Rays complex so as not to face an AL East opponent, but he wanted live action.
“I wanted to get the uniform on, pitch in front of a crowd a little bit, that’s it,’’ Morton said. “We’re in March, (regular-season) games start in March and I want to get going.’
Morton signed a two-year, $30 million contract with the Rays after spending the last two seasons with the Astros, and his $15 million salary is the largest in team history.
Rocco reunion tour, part 2
Longtime Rays player and coach Rocco Baldelli made his first trip back to Port Charlotte in his new role as Twins manager, and was welcomed by many former colleagues with hugs and handshakes, as he was Saturday when the teams met in Fort Myers.
Baldelli likened his visit to the 2009 season when he came back as a player for the Red Sox, his only other season with another team than the Rays since 2000.
“It’s definitely different,’’ he said. “It’s definitely emotional. It’s definitely something that you’re not used to. … You’re saying hi to people that you know so well that you just haven’t seen very much of and you’re wearing a different team’s jersey. … There’s never for me any uncomfortable-ness in any way. It’s more meaningful more than anything, where every person you walk into, every conversation means so much you wish you had more time.’’
Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell was pleased overall with his 16-pitch, two-strikeout, one-inning debut, noting how locked in he felt and sharp his best-of-spring curveball was, though frustrated with a four-pitch walk to Jonathan Schoop. “Excited about a lot of things,’’ Snell said. … The Rays (3-4) won 1-0 on a combined two-hitter by eight pitchers. … Lefty Ryan Yarbrough left after facing only one batter (six pitches) due to feeling “a little tightness” in his left groin while warming up; both he and the team said it was precautionary. … Yandy Diaz made his first appearance at first, and made a snazzy diving stop. … Matt Duffy “felt fine” and was pleased overall with his spring debut after sitting out the first week due to a left hamstring tweak, going 0-for-2 (and not running all out as ordered) and playing five innings at third. … Catcher Michael Perez threw out ex-Ray Lucas Duda trying to advance to second. … Non-roster righthander Casey Sadler threw two scoreless innings. … Shortstop prospect Lucius Fox knocked in the sole run.
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* Ji-Man Choi is back in the lineup Friday playing first base after missing a couple days with a tweaked back, though likely will be on an every-other-day schedule.
* Snell’s next outing will be Tuesday night against USF, which will be a treat, and a challenge, for the Bulls players.
* Wander Franco, the infielder ranked among the top five prospects in the game, turns 18 on Friday. Think about that.
* A new Game of Thrones/MLB series includes three Rays-themed bobbleheads, Ice Dragon, Night King and mascot Raymond in the Iron Throne, available for $45-$60 from foco.com.