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Rays rookie Austin Pruitt makes opening day roster

“I’m definitely surprised. … This is an absolute dream come true, reliever Austin Pruitt says of making the Rays’ opening day roster.
Published Mar. 31, 2017

PORT CHARLOTTE — The hugs came from his teammates, who wore big smiles as they wrapped their arms around RHP Austin Pruitt after the rookie was informed Thursday morning he made the opening day roster.

"I'm definitely surprised," Pruitt said. "This is something I came in wanting, but kept my hopes really low so I didn't get crushed or anything. This is an absolute dream come true."

The Rays optioned RHPs Chase Whitley and Jaime Schultz to Triple-A Durham as the bullpen took further shape. The lone decision is whether the team will keep RHP Jumbo Diaz or pick up a pitcher who was released by another team.

Manager Kevin Cash said Pruitt, who pitched at Durham last season, impressed with his ability to throw strikes.

"It's been exciting to watch him, not knowing him and then having him come in and compete the way he has, mound demeanor, stuff, everything really showed up well," Cash said. "It's a great story, and it's going to continue to be a great story because he's going to help us in a lot of ways this season."

Cash said Pruitt will be used for multiple innings, and he won't hesitate to use him in that role to protect a small lead.

Cash said Whitley will be a starter at Durham but could be used in the Rays bullpen at some point this season. Schultz will continue to work in relief while with the Bulls.

"We think the world of Jaime Schultz and are very confident he's going to help us here real soon," Cash said.

The Rays have until noon Sunday to set the roster. Cash said the final decision on the bullpen and the bench (OF Peter Bourjos, OF Mallex Smith, INF Daniel Robertson, UTL Nick Franklin) might not be made until Saturday.

Quote of the day

"That was probably the best conversation all spring."

Rays manager Kevin Cash on telling rookie Austin Pruitt he had made his first big-league roster

Game stuff: Rays 6, Twins 6

RHP Jake Odorizzi continued his sharp spring during his tuneup for Tuesday's start. He allowed two runs, which came on a Joe Mauer homer, in 3⅓ innings. Bourjos, who joined the club Wednesday, had two more hits. … SS Willy Adames drove in a run with a triple. … LF Corey Dickerson made a sliding catch. … LHP Xavier Cedeno, RHP Alex Colome, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, RHP Tommy Hunter and RHP Jumbo Diaz each pitched the second day of back-to-back outings.

Opening ceremonies

Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, a senior officer in the U.S. Army and current commander of Joint Special Operations Command, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday's season opener. He is a four-star general who has participated in a number of combat operations, including Operation Just Cause in 1989, the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sgt. Cherrelle Warren, an Aerospace medical technician from MacDill Air Force Base, will sing the national anthem and God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch.

Spring things

• OF Garrett Whitley, the team's first-round pick in 2015, made his Rays debut Thursday. He replaced Evan Longoria as the DH.

• The Rays drew 81,752 fans during 18 games at Charlotte Sports Park.

• LHP Johnny Venters, who's trying to come back from his third Tommy John surgery, and RHP Adam Kolarek were re-signed. Ventures rehabbed with the Rays in 2015 and '16.

• RHP Chris Archer switched agents from ISE to Legacy Agency.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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