The blue T-shirts with a photo of four horses behind a low fence showed up in the lockers of Rays pitchers and coaches a couple of days ago and quickly became clubhouse favorites.
“The stable shirt,” as veteran Charlie Morton called it, offered a visual accompaniment to the now infamous message that Rays manager Kevin Cash delivered a few weeks ago. It was part of Cash’s angry response to Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman throwing at the head of infielder Mike Brosseau during an at-bat:
“The last thing I’ll say on it is I’ve got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour. Period.”
Morton and bullpen coach Stan Boroski put the shirts on display Wednesday by wearing them to pregame media Zoom interviews from New York’s Citi Field, though both played coy about the symbolism.
“It was in my locker last week, and I like horses. … I rode when I was younger,” Morton said. “I was ecstatic to see this shirt in my locker, so I wore it.”
Fair to assume Cash’s quote became a rallying point among the relievers?
“Maybe, maybe not,” Boroski said. “I’m not sure about that, and I’m not going to say too much about that. We’ll just let the chips fall where they may, as far as horse chips go.”
But he did offer an equine analogy to the bullpen crew.
“I had three horses at one time and when you keep them stabled up, they like to get out and run,” Boroski said. "It’s a lot like with our pitching staff — these guys like to get out and do what they do.
“So we can’t keep them penned up too long. They’ve got to get out and run. That’s what I did with my horses when I owned them, and that’s what we try to do with these guys.”
And, Morton noted, “We’ve got some guys that throw really hard. There’s a premium on that nowadays, especially.”
Reliever Pete Fairbanks had a different suggestion recently, on acknowledging Cash’s quote; if only the Rays bullpen wasn’t along the foul lines at Tropicana Field but in a more traditional location behind the outfield fence: "We don’t really have a gate for us down there, but if we could get that put in, I think that would be a fine addition.''
Updates on Choi, Diaz, Brosseau
Infielders Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz are scheduled to take swings against Jose Alvarado and field ground balls at Tropicana Field on Thursday in the next test in their bids to return from hamstring strains in time for Tuesday’s playoff opener.
"I don’t know if we have time on our side, but it does seem like they are making pretty good progress to force us to make some decisions here at the end of the season,'' Cash said.
Choi and Diaz have been taking batting practice at the Port Charlotte camp, which closed Wednesday as all players in the Rays postseason pool will be quarantining in St. Petersburg.
Thursday’s workout, on a team off-day, will be their first on the turf and their first doing defensive work, albeit light. "They’re going to take some ground balls, kind of the right-at-'em ground balls, not moving around too much,'' Cash said. "See how their hamstrings feel in that position of fielding a ground ball and then coming up and making a throw out of that.''
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Also a step up in competition, as they will bat against Alvarado, who similarly is trying to show he’s ready after being sidelined since mid-August with shoulder inflammation.
Cash said the reason Brosseau hadn’t played since Saturday was “irritation” in his oblique area (that he wanted to play through) but the infielder was “feeling better” and was available if needed on Wednesday.
Stan is the man
Bullpen coach Boroski is the only current Ray in uniform who was part of the last AL East-winning team in 2010. "The first one was amazing,'' Boroski said. "It was my first year in the big leagues and to win the AL East in your in the big leagues was an unbelievable experience. And not to say you think it’s going to happen again, but that fact that it’s taken (10) years for it to happen again, you understand just how special it is to win a division. Getting to the playoffs is great. Being a wild-card member is great. But winning a division is a little bit different. It’s a little bit different feeling. … It’s a wonderful feeling.''
Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier was out of the lineup in a plan to give him the benefit of two days off but entered the game in the seventh. … The Rays' hitless streak with runners in scoring position, which started Friday, got to 0-for-28 before Willy Adames singled in Randy Arozarena in the eighth. … Outfielder Hunter Renfroe moved to first base for the ninth.