Rays journal: It was Yandy Diaz Day in Port Charlotte

New infielder flashes leather, hits three-run homer in win over Tigers in first of two Friday games.
Yandy Diaz, shown earlier in camp, had several reasons to smile Friday. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Yandy Diaz, shown earlier in camp, had several reasons to smile Friday. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Published March 15
Updated March 16

PORT CHARLOTTE — Yandy Diaz put on a show Friday against the Tigers, making several good plays at first base and blasting a three-run homer over the boardwalk beyond the leftfield fence in the 7-3 win.

Diaz didn’t need to wait for team translator Manny Navarro to say he enjoyed the homer more: “I know I hit a lot of ground balls in the past so I’m working on driving the ball more."

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Manager Kevin Cash said it was “nice to see Yandy get into one" but the Rays just want him to keep hitting the ball hard.

“We’re not messing with his hitting," Cash said. “We think he’s going to hit, regardless of whether it’s on the ground, in the air or line drives. He’ll hit."

Joey Ballgame

Joey Wendle started at third base Friday, and played well enough there that Cash said he likely will get some starts there against right-handed pitchers. One scenario could have Wendle at third, Brandon Lowe at second and Ji-Man Choi at first.

“That could be see right out of the gate potentially," said Cash, noting the Astros are likely to start four right-handers in the opening series. Wendle also will get some time this spring at shortstop.

In Port Charlotte, a 7-3 win over Tigers

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Primary opener Ryne Stanek worked two strong innings, allowing only one hit, pleased with his improved fastball command, splitter, and increasing game readiness in the 7-3 win over the Tigers. … Cash praised Chaz Roe and Jalen Beeks, sharing how bullpen coach Stan Boroski noted Beeks last year might not have battled through long at-bat last year as he did Friday with repeated strikes. … Non-roster veteran Emilio Bonifacio had three hits. … DH Tommy Pham deked Tigers rightfielder Harold Castro into a soft throw and took an extra base. “He takes everything he’s doing at that time very, very seriously," Cash said. “If that gives him an edge to do it, or helps us win a game, he’s going to test it and see what he’s capable of."

Spring things

* Cash changed plans and decided to let bench coach Matt Quatraro manage the night game in Bradenton against the Pirates.

* Outfielder Avisail Garcia blasted a ball in BP off the top half of the Charlotte Sports Park scoreboard that temporarily knocked out some of the lights.

* Opening day starter Blake Snell will work three innings or 60 pitches in a minor-league game on Saturday in Port Charlotte against an Orioles affiliate, then face the Pirates March 22 in prep for his March 28 assignment vs. the Astros.

* Matt Duffy said his left hamstring continues to feel good. He took swings in live BP on Friday and will test it running at 80 percent Saturday on the arcs (behind the infield dirt). He remains optimistic of being ready for the opener.

* Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon looked good again in throwing their second live batting practices in the final stages of rehab from Tommy John surgery.

* Late-game relievers Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo and Chaz Roe will throw in a sim game Sunday rather than face the AL East rival Red Sox in Fort Myers. Ex-Ray David Price will start for the defending champs.

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