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Rays' Souza ready for his spring debut

Rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. is expected to be in the starting lineup today, though he might not play the field.
Rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. is expected to be in the starting lineup today, though he might not play the field.
Published Mar. 9, 2016

LAKELAND — Though not slated to debut in a spring game until today, Steven Souza Jr. nonetheless packed up his bats, gloves and antsiness and made the two-hour bus journey to Lakeland with the traveling squad Tuesday.

"I think he's getting bored," manager Kevin Cash said. "He wanted to come, so we're gonna let him come."

Boredom likely takes a hiatus today. Souza, who strained an intercostal muscle near his left rib cage during a Feb. 21 batting practice, is expected to be in the lineup against the Blue Jays.

Whether he's also in the field remains unclear. Tuesday marked his third day of work in the field and fifth full day of batting practice, which he indicated were prerequisites to getting game action.

"It just feels really good not only to be out on the field taking BP, (but) the intercostal wasn't even a thought in the back of my mind," Souza said after sending a couple of Cash batting practice offerings into the berm beyond leftfield.

"So to be out of Port Charlotte and taking BP at an away stadium feels good, too, so we're ready to go for" today.

ROUGH DAY FOR RAMIREZ: Going right after most of Detroit's everyday lineup with his modest fastball, RHP Erasmo Ramirez struggled in slightly more than two innings in the Rays' 6-5 loss.

Ramirez threw 51 pitches (33 for strikes), allowing five earned runs on seven hits while striking out one, walking none and tossing a wild pitch. He surrendered four runs on five hits in the second after a 1-2-3 first requiring 10 pitches.

"I was attacking a lot with my fastball, using a lot of my fastball, and I'm not a fastball pitcher," Ramirez said. "But those work out. … I prefer this happen during spring training. Now I know during the season, don't do it."

Cash similarly betrayed little concern. "He threw strikes, but he kind of worked behind the count a little bit, and when you do that to that type of lineup, you're gonna see some hard-hit balls," Cash said.

"No concern whatsoever. He got his pitches in, that's the priority right now. The fine tuning, we're still weeks away from that."

MORE DEBUTS: Souza won't be the only prominent Ray making his first game appearance of the spring today. Cash reaffirmed primary setup guys Alex Colome and Xavier Cedeno also will make their formal spring debuts. Their respective workloads have been intentionally lessened to this point.

"Colome threw 10 or 11 innings in winter ball, and then he stopped … just because we felt it was smart for him to stop," Cash said.

"And Cedeno, he had a huge workload for us last year (66 appearances), so when they came into camp, we kind of factored that in, saying, let's slow them down a little bit. We know they're gonna be huge pieces at the back end of our bullpen."

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GAME DETAILS: Nonroster invitee Kyle Roller, now 4-for-7 this spring, added two more hits Tuesday. His two-run homer to left in the Rays' three-run second inning was followed by an RBI single in the fourth. … 2B Nick Franklin, who also had a pair of hits, scored the second inning's first run after singling, coming home on Taylor Motter's double. … 3B Tim Beckham finished 2-for-4 with a two-out RBI single to left-center in the fourth. … Three Rays relievers — Matt Andriese, Jacob Faria and Jaime Schultz — held the Tigers to one run over the final six innings. That lone run, a homer to left by veteran John Mayberry Jr. in the seventh, was the winner. … Nonroster invitee Juniel Querecuto was stranded at third in the eighth after hitting a one-out triple to deep center. … Tigers closer Bruce Rondon, whose pitches were eclipsing 100 mph per the Marchant Stadium portable scoreboard, worked a 1-2-3 ninth.

ODDS AND ENDS: Cash said he was impressed at how Faria (two IP, one run, one hit, three strikeouts, no walks) responded after surrendering the homer to Mayberry. "He gives up the home run and continues to go strike one, strike two to get the third out (a grounder to first)," Cash said. "But he just pounds the strike zone and he gets outs in the zone, which is not easy to do." … Nonroster invitee Jaff Decker's seventh-inning double was his third of the spring. … Desmond Jennings' first-inning double Tuesday was his fourth.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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