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Jaime Schultz continues strong spring for Rays

Jaime Schultz, shown in a spring game last month, has starting experience but the bullpen could be his big-league ticket.
Jaime Schultz, shown in a spring game last month, has starting experience but the bullpen could be his big-league ticket.
Published Mar. 6, 2017

DUNEDIN — The most intriguing thought from Sunday's 5-3 win over the Blue Jays is of Jaime Schultz coming out of the Rays bullpen — and maybe sooner than later.

Schultz sizzled again, striking out his three batters on 11 pitches with a fastball clocked as high as 98 complemented by a power curve.

After working his way quickly through the system as a starter, piling up 410 strikeouts in 325⅔ innings going from Class A to Double A to Triple A in 2014-16, Schultz might get to the majors faster as a reliever.

"We've heard he's pretty comfortable in any role, and we're probably going to find out more as we get deeper into spring training how comfortable he is," manager Kevin Cash said. "We'll have a decision to make which way we're going to go, whether he's in the bullpen or as a starter."

Schultz, 25, has looked good in his three relief outings, striking out nine of the 16 batters he has faced. Strike-throwing has been an issue in the past — 187 walks in those 325⅔ innings — but is getting better.

Having closed at High Point University, he is open to whatever the Rays have in mind. "I just want to prove that I'm working hard," he said.

A good bad day

RHP Alex Cobb wasn't thrilled with the results, allowing a couple of hard-hit balls during three innings of one-run ball against many of Toronto's regulars, but in experimenting with some slight, secret changes to his mechanics — "It's inside info," he joked — he felt it overall was "a great day."

In short, Cobb is trying to get into "a more consistent power position at my balance point," which he figures will give him better depth on his changeup and trajectory on his fastball.

What makes it tricky is his mechanics are complex to begin with, and he doesn't know if the slow progress "is part of the Tommy John rehab getting back from that versus your typical spring training getting muscle memory back and repeatability of pitches back."

Number of the day

3 Hall of Famers who have texted RHP Jake Odorizzi: George Brett, when Odorizzi was a Royals prospect; hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who met Odorizzi during a trip to Toronto; and most recently, Joe Torre, who invited him to be on the U.S. team reserve list for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, with the chance to pitch in the second game or championship round.

Colombian changeup

The Rays will supply at least some relief pitching for the Colombian WBC team during Wednesday's exhibition in Port Charlotte, with Neil Wagner, Jeff Ames and Diego Moreno among those slated to throw against their own teammates.

Quote of the day

"Our quality control coach? Outstanding. To pay him the amount of money they're paying him, he had to have a better title. That's why he got that."

Jays manager John Gibbons, joking about the job being done by new staff member Derek Shelton, hired following his September dismissal after seven years as the Rays' hitting coach.

Game report: Rays beat Jays 5-3

The Rays (6-3-1) rallied for three runs in the eighth, LF Jake Bauers starting the rally and 1B Casey Gillaspie delivering a two-run single. … 2B Brad Miller continued his re-education at second, turning a double play to end the third. … CF Kevin Kiermaier (stiff neck) returned to action with a double in the first.

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Spring things

• Though OF Mallex Smith is known for his speed and range in centerfield, the Rays need to see him in the corners since they plan to have Kevin Kiermaier in center. Smith started in right Sunday.

• Today is a rare total off day, with the clubhouse in Port Charlotte closed to players.

• Several Rays and ex-Rays expressed condolences Sunday over the diabetes-related death of longtime Triple-A Durham clubhouse manager Colin Saunders.

• As the Rays look for a right-handed hitting outfielder, what about a reunion with B.J. Upton, who is with the Jays for now?

Marc Topkin can be reached at Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.


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