PORT CHARLOTTE — Saturday’s exhibition game against the Braves was rained out, but Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier nevertheless continued his preparation to start playing in games on Tuesday.
Kiermaier said the hip tightness that slowed him earlier in camp has been treated, and he has taken enough at-bats against live pitching, as he did again Saturday, to avoid falling behind.
“I feel ready,” he said. “And I’ll be more than ready to go come Tuesday.”
Kiermaier said he plans to ease his body into game shape, noting that some aspects of the game, such as playing defense, can’t be simulated. “That’s one of the hardest things about it, just standing there and reacting to each pitch,” he said “Those things, they add up. Come the evening, you start feeling that.”
Kiermaier, 30, said the hip issue occurred just before the start of camp, as he had been doing sprints on an every-other-day basis.
“I’m getting older now,” he said. “I just had a little bit of hip tightness, and all I needed was a little break. We were preparing for the long season ahead, so I got the rest that was needed and I feel confident. I don’t think there will be any more setbacks as far as that goes. So, hopefully I can back that up.”
Kiermaier said he has things he wants to work on during the spring specific to his approach at the plate, but he plans to throttle back from his usual all-out play: “I’m going to try to behave.”
Rain didn’t go away
The forecast for Saturday had been ominous for days, but as late as 11:30 a.m. the Rays were confident the game would be played and told the Braves to travel from nearby North Port. Around 12:20 p.m., the Rays announced the start time would be pushed back from 1:05 to 1:30, figuring the heavy rain would hold off enough to get in three-five innings. At 12:45, they said it had been canceled, and a downpour started soon thereafter.
“It just kept coming,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We thought that it was going to be lighter stuff throughout, but it got built up right there off the coast. I think we made the right decision.”
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Archer, Glasnow did well, anyway
The Rays got an intrasquad/simulated game in before the rain, and Cash said Chris Archer, who re-signed as a free agent, looked sharp. “(Pitching coach Kyle Snyder) is really excited about the shape to the slider,” Cash said. “It’s as good as we’ve seen it, and we’ve seen it really good in the past. So that’s encouraging.” Archer is likely to advance next to an exhibition game, potentially Friday. Cash said reliever Hunter Strickland also stood out among several pitchers in the morning session.
Once the game against the Braves was called, scheduled starter Tyler Glasnow threw three “innings” and Trevor Richards two to hitters in the indoor batting cage. Glasnow was on, Cash said, hitting 99 mph and throwing strikes. “It’s just electric stuff, kind of unfair to do that in a cage setting,” he said.
Other pitchers that had been scheduled to throw Saturday will instead pitch against the Twins Sunday, including Collin McHugh, Pete Fairbanks, Cody Reed and prospect Shane Baz, with Michael Wacha starting. Some changes will be made to the lineup, with Yoshi Tsutsugo and Willy Adames among those who now will play. The Rays are off on Monday.