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Rays’ Blake Snell set to return to the mound Monday

Rays journal: Priority for Snell now shifts to building up innings. Also, Wander Franco has a hand in a triple play Saturday.

PORT CHARLOTTE — Blake Snell felt good enough Saturday to return to the mound Monday in Dunedin, which was good news for the Rays.

Snell has been sidelined since feeling soreness in his elbow following his one-inning spring debut on Feb. 26 and got a cortisone shot Feb. 28. He resumed playing catch last Tuesday, and a Friday bullpen session was his last test to return to game action, pending his morning after reaction.

“Coming in I feel good," he said early Saturday, before playing catch, which apparently went well. “Everything feels normal. Not too worried about it."

Related: How "Coach Z" is helping Rays pitching staff, others and himself

With less than three weeks until opening day, the Rays will balance handling Snell cautiously and getting him built up to pitch in regular-season games, knowing his debut may be delayed.

“I’m excited to get into a routine and to really start actually pitching," Snell said. “I haven’t really looked that far (at the regular season) yet. … Probably once I get to three-four innings, then I’ll look at it. Right now the only thing that matters is pitching in a game, being healthy and then being able to do it again healthy."

Manager Kevin Cash said they’ll go “outing by outing” through the spring, gauging “how he’s recovering each time." Snell’s next start likely would be Friday or Saturday.

Wander Franco triples up

There’s something about Wander Franco. The game’s consensus top prospect this spring already played in his first big-league exhibition and got his first hit. Saturday, facing the Braves in North Port in his third game, he was involved in his first triple play at any level, snagging an Ozzie Albies line drive, then throwing to first to double off one runner with Dalton Kelly then throwing to second to get another. “That’s a big accomplishment for me because I’ve never completed a triple play," Franco told mlb.com. “I felt really happy about that.”

Game details: Rays 1, Orioles 0

Jose Martinez singled in the only run as seven pitchers combined on the shutout at home … Diego Castillo continued his strong spring, posting a fifth outing without an earned run. “I feel really good," he said, with George Pappas interpreting, noting the benefits of starting workouts earlier. “I wish the season could start right now the way I’m throwing the ball. … Cash noted that starter Sean Gilmartin “came out and changed speeds really, really well” and that reliever Colin Poche had his best outing thus far, his fastball showing “the life we like to see out of it." … Yoshi Tsutsugo struck out three times, facing pitchers throwing 95 mph plus his last two at-bats. He said he was glad for the experience, via interpreter Louis Chao, that “it definitely will help me." Cash said he wasn’t concerned about Tsutsugo.

Game details: Rays 1, Braves 1

The Rays (9-5-3) were three outs from a 1-0 win at North Port when Tyler Zombro allowed a leadoff triple to Christian Pache and a sac fly. … Prospect Joe Ryan had a second strong spring start, working three scoreless innings against a strong Braves lineup and striking out five, and getting some bad swings. … Non-roster pitchers John Curtiss, D.J. Snelten and Ryan Thompson looked good again. … Bench coach Matt Quatraro managed.

Miscellany

Phoenix Sanders hands a ball to a fan before a spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins on Friday. The Rays aren't cutting out fan interaction due to coronavirus fears, but are taking extra precautions. [ ELISE AMENDOLA | AP ]

Cash said there was no major news in the MLB-mandated meeting with doctors about the coronavirus, mainly reminders to wash your hands and keep them away from your face. The Rays will give players pens to use to sign autographs and some balls to pre-sign to give to fans. “We want to keep the fan interaction but want to limit the contact for everybody involved,” Cash said. … Based on the schedule, Sunday seems like a day for first cuts. … Tsutsugo will make his first road trip to play in Dunedin on Monday, a plan to also give him time, with Tuesday’s day off, to familiarize himself with the St. Pete area and find a rental home for the season. … Likely opening day starter Charlie Morton will throw in a simulated game Sunday on a back field rather than face the Pirates, the March 26 opponent. … Ryan Yarbrough and Tyler Glasnow will throw against each other in a simulated game in Port Charlotte on Tuesday’s off day.

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