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Rays' healthy starters all to pitch on same day

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Karns (51) throwing in the third inning during the Spring Training game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. on Saturday, March 14, 2015. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 3 - 2.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Karns (51) throwing in the third inning during the Spring Training game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. on Saturday, March 14, 2015. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 3 - 2.
Published Mar. 23, 2015

DUNEDIN — Injuries have forced the Rays to shuffle their starting rotation to open the season, and the top three healthy options will all wind up pitching on the same day this Saturday.

It's not a shell game so much as coincidence, with likely opening-day starter Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi set to pitch in a minor-league game and Nathan Karns starting against the Red Sox.

Pitching coach Jim Hickey "sat them all down, talked with them and they all came up with the same day they wanted to pitch," manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. "We're going to find a couple of games, innings for them, but nothing more than that. We're trying to not disrupt that many people's schedule, so we let them have their choice. We'll figure it out as we go."

With Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly sidelined at the start of the season, Cash said he has a "pretty strong feeling" he'll take advantage of an off day after a three-game series to open the season, which would allow the team to go back to Archer after four games on normal rest.

"We're all trying to accommodate them as much as possible. A lot of moving parts and stuff like that," Cash said. "I don't think anything is set in stone. We just had this day where it all came together."

BATS GO QUIET: The Rays managed only three hits Sunday — two by CF Desmond Jennings — in a 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin.

Jennings, now hitting .478 this spring, doubled in the first, walked in the fourth and singled in the sixth, but the rest of the team went a combined 1-for-28, the lone hit coming on RF Joey Butler's single in the second.

PLEASED WITH PITCHING: Cash was encouraged by his pitching — LHP Everett Teaford gave up two runs in three innings in his first start, but reliever Jim Miller pitched two scoreless innings of one-hit ball, and Mike Montgomery threw 22/3 innings with one mistake, a solo home run by Jays C Russell Martin.

"Good day. Monty threw the ball really well. I thought all the pitchers threw well," Cash said. "Really liked Monty's fastball-changeup combination. … Jim Miller has increasingly gotten better with every outing. … He looked sharp, and Teaford made some good pitches."

SURPRISING: Asked about players who have surprised him in spring, Cash mentioned Jordan Norberto, a 28-year-old left-hander who hadn't pitched since having Tommy John elbow surgery in June 2013. Norberto has a 1.80 ERA in five spring appearances. "It seems like every time he comes out, he has strong outings, he's commanding the ball, his velo is up," Cash said. "That's been nice to see. We didn't know exactly what we were going to get out of him this spring, and he's had a lot of success."

GOOD TEST: Toronto fielded close to its regular potent lineup, and Teaford said he was glad to have a challenge as he tries to make a case for a spot start at the back of the rotation until key starters return from injuries.

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"You always want to face the best. That's any pitcher. You don't want to go pad your stats against the back-field guys. As far as an opportunity to show my stuff, I got the A-squad, pretty much. I felt like I competed, threw strikes, didn't walk anybody. Didn't look out of my element I hope, at least."

THIS AND THAT: INF Juniel Querecuto, a 22-year-old minor-leaguer from Venezuela, got his first spring at-bat in the ninth inning, reaching when he was hit by a pitch from Chad Jenkins. … Former FSU INF Devon Travis doubled and scored for Toronto in the third inning. … C Bobby Wilson, getting a start in his hometown of Dunedin, went 0-for-3 while hitting ninth.

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