MIAMI — The Rays said they would be creative in handling their pitching staff in the absence of several injured starters. And they definitely are doing so for tonight's game against the Marlins, announcing late Thursday that reliever Steve Geltz would make the first start of his eight-year pro career.
The Rays also made the expected move of placing DH/OF John Jaso on the disabled list due to a bruised left wrist, and the unexpected move of calling up 2011 first-round draft pick OF Mikie Mahtook to make his major-league debut.
In starting Geltz, the Rays must see some advantage in the flexibility of going to the bullpen — and potentially the bench for a pinch-hitter — early in the National League-rules game. Two pitchers who have previous starting experience — RHP Matt Andriese and RHP Erasmo Ramirez — seem likely to see action.
Jaso injured his wrist sliding into second during Monday's opener, and becomes the ninth Ray on the DL. Mahtook, 25, played in Triple-A Durham's opener on Thursday at Gwinnett, then got word of his promotion. In 2014 with the Bulls he hit .292 with 12 homers, 68 RBIs, 18 steals and an .820 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Geltz, 27, was acquired from the Angels in March 2013 and that season and most of 2014 at Triple-A Durham. He was suspended 50 games for a failed test for a drug of abuse. He won the last spot in the bullpen with a strong finish to the spring, and has pitched twice this season without allowing a hit.
In 256 pro games he has worked more than three innings once (3⅔ in 2009) and has not thrown more than 47 pitches in a game in at least the last five years.
SMYLY STRONG: LHP Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) made a strong first rehab start for advanced Class A Charlotte, retiring all six batters he faced without a ball leaving the infield, throwing 23 pitches (15 strikes).
"Felt great. Better than I expected. So I was very encouraged," Smyly said. "I threw a lot of strikes, and my arm felt the best it has felt."
Smyly was so efficient he went to the bullpen and threw 12 more pitches to get to his scheduled 35. He will at least one, and possibly two or three, more rehab starts, aiming to rejoin the Rays rotation by the end of the month.
"It was a great first step," Smyly said. "You progress every day, so after my next start, I should know a lot more. But right now, I'm just looking to see how the next five days go."
BUCK'S WORLD: Orioles manager Buck Showalter insisted there was a problem with the phone line between the Trop visitors dugout and the bullpen during the opening series, though the Rays say there were no issues.
Showalter, no fan of the Trop anyway, said the team had to go get and use walkie-talkies — which would seem to be a violation of MLB rules — during Wednesday's finale. "The phones didn't work again tonight. We had to buy a walkie-talkie — it's a challenge," Showalter told the Baltimore Sun. "I'm going to turn it in on expenses, though. That walkie-talkie is expensive."
MISCELLANY: INF Alexi Casilla, who spent the spring with the Rays, re-signed a minor-league deal and joined Triple-A Durham. … This will be earliest the Rays have played an interleague series; last year they played at Cincinnati in Game 11. … Durham won its opener 1-0.
Information from Josh Vitale of the Charlotte Sun was used in this report.