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  1. Rays

Rays' Matt Andriese excited for first big-league start

TORONTO — RHP Matt Andriese naturally was excited to make his major-league debut with an inning of relief work Friday in Miami.

But he is understandably more amped about making his first start tonight.

"I feel, obviously, more comfortable starting," he said. "So I'm looking forward to (tonight) to kind of show them what I can do."

Andriese, 25, has been primarily a starter throughout college at UC-Riverside and his four-year pro career. That includes a 11-8, 3.77 performance at Triple-A Durham last season after being acquired from San Diego in the same trade that landed the Rays RHP Brad Boxberger and INF Logan Forsythe in exchange for LHP Alex Torres and RHP Jesse Hahn.

When Andriese (an-DREESE) is on his game, hitters are pounding a lot of balls into the turf.

"I consider myself like a ground ball guy," he said. "I like to envision myself as the kind of guy who goes out there and goes deep into games. Not going to overpower you with a lot of velocity and whatnot, kind of sinker/cutter, attack the strike zone, use all four pitches (also changeup and curveball), and throw them for strikes."

Manager Kevin Cash said Andriese seemed to get more confident the more he pitched in spring training, and he is looking forward to seeing him against a challenging and powerful Toronto lineup.

"He keeps the ball down really well," Cash said. "And against these guys, that's probably what we'd like him to do."

How Andriese does tonight will factor into who starts Wednesday based on bullpen usage. RHP Erasmo Ramirez is the leading in-house candidate if he isn't needed in relief first.

Another choice is to make Wednesday another "bullpen" day, and the Rays have the ability to add fresh arms as it is the first day optioned players can be recalled.

That would apply to relievers RHP Jose Dominguez and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, but the Rays don't have a starter in the minors who is on the 40-man roster and healthy. RHP Brandon Gomes is another possibility, though the Rays would have to create space on the 40-man roster.

TEA LEAVES: Given that MLB's investigation into potential tampering by the Cubs in hiring Joe Maddon before he left the Rays is still ongoing after 5½ months, it would seem there may be something there.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday that despite his goal and "fervent hope" to have it wrapped up by opening day, the probe "remains ongoing," though it should be concluded "fairly soon."

Adding to the intrigue, he also notes that investigations don't always have predictable timelines as "things happen that need to be pursued."

If the Cubs were found guilty it would seem the discipline would be no more than a fine or award of a draft pick.

MEDICAL MATTERS: LHP Jake McGee (elbow surgery) threw 30 pitches of live batting practice Monday in Port Charlotte and is set for his first game action, in extended spring training, on Thursday then hopes to move up to Triple-A Durham, eyeing a late April return. … LHP Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) makes the second of his four rehab starts at 10 a.m. today for advanced Class A Charlotte.

BIG BASH: Monday was the 11th anniversary of Cash's best day as a player, as he went 4-for-4 with three doubles for the Blue Jays in a 7-5 win at Detroit. "It was a great day, but definitely a fluke," he said. "You can look up the rest of the stats."

MISCELLANY: Monday was the 14th time the Rays were guests for a home opener; they were 2-11. … INF Tim Beckham started at second Monday in place of Logan Forsythe, and he figures to be in the lineup the next two nights with the Jays starting lefties. … New AstroTurf installed at Rogers Centre looked like it was going to play slow, Cash said.