MIAMI — Avisail Garcia seemed to get every bit of the Caleb Smith pitch he launched for a massive homer Tuesday, but the chatter the day after was how he got cheated on the measurement, which was estimated by MLB’s Statcast system at 471 feet.
Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier was among the most adamant, saying and taking to Twitter to insist the blast was “every bit of 500+ feet.’’
Without getting too deep into the math, the Rays might have a point as the ball hit on a walkway that is about 20 feet beyond the 407-foot centerfield fence and grassed-over batter’s eye background, and 36 feet above field level. Statcast uses radar to track the ball, then projects the trajectory as if it hit at ground level.
Hitting coach Chad Mottola was another skeptic of the estimated distance.
“Yeah, when you can’t see where the ball lands … I feel like all of them go about 471 feet when they go far,’ he said. “It seems like that’s where it’s capped off because they don’t want to show favoritism. I’ve seen some (other) balls go 471, and they didn’t seem to go that far.’’
The Rays had similar skepticism last month about Statcast — which debuted in 2015 — when Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe launched balls into the rare air of the Section 500 level in Toronto, but they were estimated at only 436 feet.
Garcia wasn’t concerned. Plus, he has a longer homer on his resume, a shot in Toronto last year that was estimated at 481 feet. “I know it was far,’’ he said of Tuesday’s shot. “I don’t know what happened.’’
No matter what the announced distance, Mottola said the Rays know how strong Garcia is and how solidly he hits the ball.
“He does that regularly during (batting practice) and in the cage,’’ Mottola said. “Nobody can do the one-hand (hitting) drills that he does. So this was one of those where other people got to see what we see all the time.’’
Decisions on when to take out starting pitchers are sometimes more involved than they seem. For example, there was more to the Rays pulling Charlie Morton after six innings Tuesday besides the slim 2-0 lead and his spot in the order coming up in the seventh.
In limiting him to 82 pitches over the six innings, and to 86 and five in his previous May 8 outing, there was some looking ahead to this weekend.
The Rays want Morton to pitch Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees. And since he will do so on the standard four days’ rest, without the benefit of the extra day they have tried to give the 35-year-old whenever possible, they wanted to keep the workload light.
“It shortened him up a little bit,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “Rather than put the extra 15-20 pitches the next inning (on him), keep him as fresh as possible for Sunday.’’
Less than a year after being drafted by the Rays in the first round out of high school, Matthew Liberatore made his Class A debut on Wednesday with Bowling Green. The lefty was sharp with five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a walk, striking out four, with 44 of 62 pitches for strikes, clocking 95-96 mph. Liberatore, 19, went 2-2, 1.38 in nine starts last year between the Gulf Coast League Rays and rookie-level Princeton.
Right-hander Jose De Leon had a strong outing in the third start of his rehab from spring 2018 Tommy John surgery, moving up to Triple-A Durham on Wednesday and throwing three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk, striking out five, with 32 of his 48 pitches for strikes. … Infielder Matt Duffy was 0-for-2 playing five innings at third for advanced Class A Charlotte in his second game since restarting his rehab. He will DH Thursday.
• The Rays improved to 2-7 in one-run games.
• Brandon Lowe singled in his first at-bat, snapping an 0-for-13 that included 11 strikeouts.
• Infielder/outfielder Andrew Velazquez’s spot on the roster has been somewhat tenuous as he has been up and down three times already, but he’s really hoping to stay with the team for the visit to New York, since he grew up and lives in the Bronx, not far from Yankee Stadium.