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Why Rays’ Jose Alvarado says spring debut was better than it looked

Rays journal: Reliever says that after coming back from injury, feeling good is what matters most. Also, Snell makes his first start.
Jose Alvarado retires only one of the five batters he faces in his spring debut Wednesday. [MARC TOPKIN | Tampa Bay Times]

PORT CHARLOTTE — Jose Alvarado’s performance in his first spring training game didn’t look good.

He threw 27 pitches to five batters, walking the first two and getting only one out, and just 12 were strikes, including two hit for RBI singles.

But the look on Alvarado’s face afterward, and his words, told a different story. With a rough 2019 season marred by injuries, and family issues, ended in late August due to elbow discomfort, he was thrilled just to be back pitching for the Rays.

“I am so happy," he said. “It’s close to six months not seeing hitters or pitching in a game. I’m feeling great because I’m feeling the power in my arm. I was a little bit too quick (in my delivery) but everything is good. I’m feeling good."

If Alvarado can return to his early 2019 form, he could be a huge piece of the Rays’ bullpen, so manager Kevin Cash was understandably optimistic that his control will improve. (There were still no velocity readings posted on the stadium boards.)

“Good to get him out there," Cash said after the 10-8 loss to Minnesota. “I know he didn’t command the baseball, but he looked healthy. He’s fine. We’ll get him right back out there and I think he’ll fine-tune the strike throwing a little bit."

Alvarado said he has no doubt, already determining what adjustments were needed. “That’s what spring training is for," he said. “I’m going to keep working and be ready for the season."

Snell on target

Blake Snell was pleased with his spring debut, throwing 21 pitches (15 strikes) in a 1-2-3 first, working as planned on throwing his slider more. “I felt good, I liked the consistency of the pitches, I liked the confidence and poise I had," he said. “Usually I’m pretty lost first couple games (of spring) just ’cause I haven’t done it. I felt a lot more in control and just confident, so I was really happy with that." Snell said coming to St. Pete to start workouts a month early for the first time helped: “I’m way ahead of where I was last year in spring."

Game details: Twins 10, Rays 8

The Rays (2-2-1) turned a 5-2 lead into a 10-5 deficit, then rallied in the ninth with three, and had the tying run with Chris Herrmann’s two-run single, but Tristan Gray, who had doubled twice, flew out. … Mike Brosseau hit a deep homer to left. … Backup catcher candidate Kevan Smith had two more hits. … Lefty prospect Shane McClanahan, the USF product, had a second rough outing, allowing four runs on three hits and two walks, failing to finish the seventh. … Andrew Kittredge had a second strong, clean outing. … The game lasted 3:33.

First at third

Yoshi Tsutsugo got only one ball hit to him in his first game at third base, but made a good play on a slow grounder, with a clean pickup and running throw. Tsutsugo said he felt comfortable, and credited shortstop Willy Adames for helping him with positioning. Cash praised Tsutsugo for his work in fielding drills in recent days and said he was encouraged by what he saw in the game. Tsutsugo, who made his first two outs at the plate, will rotate between third, left field and designated hitter.

Quotes of the day

“That is comical. I don’t know who is, but I know who ain’t. And he ain’t.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash, on former coach/now Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s ranking by NBCSports.com as most handsome manager

“He works really hard at it and I think he was pretty pissed off about it. He spends a lot of time in the gym, he spends a lot of time running and he spends a lot of time working on his tan. But I’m happy for him, he looks decent."

Baldelli, on Cash, who was ranked fourth

Miscellany

Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows and their wives were able to move back into their spring rental house, which they had to evacuate due to a Monday wildfire. … Kenta Maeda is slated to start for the Twins on Sunday in Port Charlotte, and if Tsutsugo is in the lineup, it will be a prime event for Japanese media and fans. … Rays and Braves players will meet Thursday night with union chief Tony Clark.

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