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Rays reliever Jake McGee touches 97 in strong season debut

 
Jake McGee hits 97 mph in a perfect one-inning season debut.
Jake McGee hits 97 mph in a perfect one-inning season debut.
Published May 18, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Having LHP Jake McGee back in the clubhouse and in the bullpen the previous two days was encouraging for the Rays.

Seeing him back on the mound hitting 97 mph on several pitches was exciting.

"It was great to have him back healthy," 3B Evan Longoria said. "He threw the ball really well. He looked like we're used to seeing."

McGee was activated from the disabled list after completing his recovery and rehab following December surgery to remove a bone chip in his elbow. Though he pitched well and felt good during six minor-league rehab appearances, pitching in the big leagues — even in the seventh inning with an 8-1 lead — was a little different.

"It was good to get out there and feel good and throws strikes and get ahead of guys," McGee said.

McGee breezed through his inning, with two strikeouts and a foul-out, even mixing in two curveballs among his 14 pitches. He said it was comforting to know he clocked 97 and expects eventually to be in that range more often.

Manager Kevin Cash was impressed with what he saw: "He was what, 93-94, and then all of a sudden you saw the 6s and 7s come out. It's nice to see. He's going to really help us obviously."

NICK OF TIME: INF Nick Franklin rejoined the Rays, a bit sleep-deprived after catching a 7 a.m. flight from Durham, N.C., but recovered from the oblique strain that sidelined him since March and still confident he can have a solid season. "Why not? It's been a little over a month, a month and a half," he said. "So there's plenty of season left."

Franklin started at second, going 2-for-5 in the 11-3 win over the Twins. Primarily, he will serve as the backup to SS Asdrubal Cabrera and 2B Logan Forsythe and as a switch-hitter, giving the team a left-handed bat on the bench.

Franklin said he knew after his fifth rehab game that he was good to go, that any cautiousness and "signs of hey, it's still there" went away.

PITCHING IN: After considering several scenarios, the Rays decided to stick with RHP Erasmo Ramirez as their Tuesday starter in Atlanta in order to give rookie RHP Nathan Karns some extra rest. RHP Jake Odorizzi will start on regular rest Wednesday.

Karns said he is fine, and Cash said it was merely a decision to lighten his load. "We try to factor in getting some extended rest for all of our starters, and it worked out especially well given his workload," Cash said. Karns is likely to start Saturday at home vs. Oakland.

The Braves also made a change, with rookie RHP Williams Perez replacing LHP Eric Stults on Wednesday. Rookie RHP Mike Foltynewicz starts Tuesday.

SCUFF MARKED: C Bobby Wilson was tempted to scuttle umpire Paul Emmel's efforts to clarify an odd play in the third.

RHP Chris Archer appeared to strike out Torii Hunter to end the inning, with Wilson catching the foul tip. But Hunter contended the ball hit the ground before Wilson's glove and convinced Emmel to check it.

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Wilson had the ball in his glove heading off the field when Emmel asked. Several Rays encouraged Wilson to toss it into the dugout or the stands, but he was afraid he would get ejected. "I was tempted at first," he said. "Sometimes you don't think that quick."

Emmel saw the scuff and allowed Hunter's at-bat to continue. It was a moot point as he grounded out.

MISCELLANY: With a successful first-inning reversal of a safe call at first base, the Rays improved to 2-12 on replay challenges. … The 11 runs were one off the season high. … LHP Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) is set to throw a live batting practice/simulated game in Port Charlotte today, potentially his last outing before an extended spring game then a rehab assignment. … 1B James Loney is hitting .474 (9-for-19) over a five-game streak.