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Rays' Drew Smyly might be ready early in regular season

Drew Smyly doesn’t seem likely to pitch April 8 as originally scheduled but might not miss a start as the Rays have an off day immediately afterward and won’t need fifth starter right away.
Drew Smyly doesn’t seem likely to pitch April 8 as originally scheduled but might not miss a start as the Rays have an off day immediately afterward and won’t need fifth starter right away.
Published Mar. 16, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE — LHP Drew Smyly played catch for a few minutes Sunday, making 30 throws at a distance of 60 feet and saying "everything felt good." The way things have been going with the Rays' rotation, that passed for good news.

The Rays don't know yet when Smyly, shelved for more than a week with shoulder tendinitis, will be ready to pitch in a regular-season game, but manager Kevin Cash acknowledged Sunday it likely won't be when he was scheduled, the April 8 finale of the opening series against Baltimore.

"We're hitting that area now where it's probably starting to get behind the gray area," Cash said.

But it's also possible that Smyly won't miss a start. That's because the Rays have an off day between their third and fourth games of the season, so they could go as far as April 15 before needing a fifth starter.

That may be an even more appealing option given that they also will open the season without RHP Alex Colome, who was the leading candidate for the one spot they had open but remains hospitalized with pneumonia and sidelined indefinitely.

"There's some unknowns with Colome, but we are hopeful with the Smyly situation it's going to be very close, if he misses a start or if he pitches on the fifth day," Cash said. "There's a lot of factoring in with that off day."

Without Smyly, the Rays would seem likely to move RHP Jake Odorizzi into the No. 3 slot, though they have yet to adjust his schedule. He will throw in a minor-league intrasquad game today. "We'd probably be leaning toward that, but that's not guaranteed," Cash said. RHP Nathan Karns is the top choice for the first open slot.

Smyly will play catch again today, but there is no date yet for him to return to the mound.

ROSTER REDUCTION: The Rays trimmed the roster to 54 by sending eight players to the minors so they can get consistent work.

RHP Jose Dominguez, the hard-throwing reliever acquired from the Dodgers, was among the players optioned, though Cash said "he's going to help us at some point this year."

Also optioned were SS Hak-Ju Lee, who was impressive coming off a poor 2014 season after a severe 2013 knee injury; INF Ryan Brett; LHP Grayson Garvin; and C Justin O'Conner. Non-roster players reassigned were RHP Dylan Floro, C Luke Maile and LHP Robert Zarate.

PITCHING IN: Two other candidates for a rotation spot, RHPs Matt Andriese and Burch Smith, each worked three innings in the 8-4 win over the Mets. Andriese was pleased with his outing, allowing four hits but no runs. Smith not as much, giving up two runs on three hits. Cash noted that both "were pretty well gassed" after their outings. … RHP Jim Miller, signed to a minor-league deal March 5, made his debut with a one-hit inning. … Five relievers threw an inning apiece in a minor-league instrasquad game — LHP Jeff Beliveau (3H), RHP Brad Boxberger (2K, HBP), RHP Ernesto Frieri (BB), RHP Brandon Gomes (1K), RHP Kevin Jepsen (2 H, 2 R, HBP). … LHP Jake McGee, recovering from Dec. 12 elbow surgery, throws off the mound for the first time Tuesday.

GAME ACTION: The Rays (5-6-1) jumped to a 5-0 lead with seven hits in the first two innings off veteran RHP Bartolo Colon. … DH John Jaso and 3B Evan Longoria had two RBIs each. … DH Allan Dykstra and 3B Juan Francisco hit back-to-back homers in the seventh. … CF Steven Souza Jr. started two big plays with strong throws, 2B Jake Elmore nailing Kirk Nieuwenhuis at home and SS Nick Franklin, on a heads-up play of his own, throwing behind Wilmer Flores at first.

MISCELLANY: The Rays have the first of two off days today. … OF Brandon Guyer (oblique/lat strain) took batting practice, but the Rays decided to have him face live pitching Tuesday in Port Charlotte rather than play in Clearwater. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg was at Sunday's game, as was one of his ownership partners, Randy Frankel.