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How Rays’ Yoshi Tsutsugo muscled his way into headlines again

With an opposite field homer off a lefty, new Rays slugger has yet to make an out. Next up: Playing third base.
Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (25), left, celebrates his solo home run with Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames (1) during the fourth inning of a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 in Port Charlotte. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

PORT CHARLOTTE — Most likely, Yoshi Tsutsugo at some point will make an out.

But two exhibition games into his Rays career, Tsutsugo has yet to be retired, following up his single and a walk debut with another walk Monday and his first homer.

Tsutsugo, properly, didn’t make much of the lofted shot off Jeffrey Springs to the left of center in the 2-2 tie with Boston, though he did acknowledge that hits off lefty pitchers are always good.

“The home runs in the season are the ones that count,’’ he said, via interpreter Louis Chao.

Manager Kevin Cash said Tsutsugo “looks good,” noting, “we’re all really happy with the presence that he has when he walks up to the plate, and the discipline he has to lay off tight pitches. He’s been pitched pretty tight but he’s not going off the plate trying to expand with the pitcher. That’s the most encouraging thing.’’

Also, Cash noted, how quickly he has become comfortable with his new teammates.

"That’s a good sign,'' he said.

When Tsutsugo crossed the plate after the homer, shortstop Willy Adames greeted him with a slight bow, that Tsutsugo returned.

Tsutsugo played his usual left field on Sunday and was the designated hitter on Monday. The plans are for him to be off Tuesday and on Wednesday play third base, the first test in the Rays’ spring experiment to see if he can be used there at least occasionally. He started doing pre-game work with the infielders on Monday and will continue for a while, Cash said, to get comfortable “and because of the communication that goes into different plays and different situations.’’

Tsutsugo started 27 games at third last season for Yokohama (one error), 89 in the 2012 season (six errors), and 127 total over his 10- year career. As for Wednesday, he said, “I’ll do my best. Hopefully, I can make some good plays. But please don’t expect too much right now.’’

Tsutsugo worked pre-game with Yandy Diaz, the well-muscled starting third baseman. Asked if he’d also go into the weight room with Diaz, Tsutsugo said, “If I watch him do his weights I’ll lose my confidence, so I prefer not to.’’

Game details: Red Sox 2, Rays 2

Starter Yonny Chirinos struck out three in the first, though allowed a run on two singles. … Non-roster veteran lefty Aaron Loup struck out two in a 1-2-3 third and, Cash said, “certainly looked like his old self.’’ … Nate Lowe showed his improvement at third, making a tough play in the eighth. … The Rays (1-1-1) tied it in the eighth and had a chance to win in the ninth when Lucius Fox led off with a walk and got around to third, but Brian O’Grady struck out to end it. ... With the teams already using 16 pitchers, the game was called after nine innings.

Meadows, Lowe evacuated due to fire

Austin Meadows, who was to start, and Brandon Lowe missed the game because they had to evacuate the spring rental home they and their wives are sharing due to brushfires in the Port Charlotte area. The players came back to the stadium during the game, and Meadows said “everybody’s good’’ and the fire is being put out, but they don’t know if they will have to find a new home. Cash they will be scheduled to play Tuesday, but that is pending the situation.

Ballpark Pass a hit

The Rays got strong response to the new Ballpark Pass, ($36 a month for all games, standing room only), quickly selling out the initial allotment (of less than 1,000). They are taking names for a wait-list, and could make more available, though space in the standing areas is limited. The Rays Win and flex packs are still available.


Charlie Morton makes his first spring start Tuesday, the 36-year-old saying ideally he wouldn’t throw at all in the spring and “save my bullets” for the season, but knows he has to go through the normal build-up routine. “I have to get ready, right?’’ he said. … Attendance Monday was 3,133. … Blake Snell and Jose Alvarado are slated for their spring debuts Wednesday though rain is forecast.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.