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Rays vs. Rangers: Josh Fleming makes 2021 debut

Left-hander who had impressive 2020 rookie season works fast, throws strikes, gets ground balls.
With Chris Archer leaving Saturday’s game with elbow tightness, the Rays summoned Josh Fleming, pictured, and pushed Rich Hill back a day to so Fleming could start on his usual day.
With Chris Archer leaving Saturday’s game with elbow tightness, the Rays summoned Josh Fleming, pictured, and pushed Rich Hill back a day to so Fleming could start on his usual day. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 14
Updated Apr. 14

ST. PETERSBURG — Josh Fleming talked throughout the spring about wanting to pitch again in the major leagues, and the lefty gets that chance tonight when he starts for the Rays against the Rangers.

The Rays sent Fleming down to their alternate site camp at the end of spring training so he could stay built up to the five-six inning range and step into the rotation when needed.

With Chris Archer leaving Saturday’s game with elbow tightness, the Rays summoned Fleming and pushed Rich Hill back a day to Thursday so Fleming — who was 5-0, 2.78 as a rookie in 2020 — could start Wednesday on his usual day.

“He can pitch,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He can really compete. He mixes it. He can sink it, put the ball on the ground really well. I know he’s worked on getting the shape to his breaking ball where he wants it fine-tuned.

“The guys like playing behind him. We’re excited to have him tonight, and hopefully he can kind of give us a chance. Yesterday (when they lost 8-3) we’re ready to move past.”

Also Wednesday:

* Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier continued to test his strained quad with plans to get some live at-bats on Thursday and remains hopeful of being activated during the six-game trip that starts Friday in New York.

* Cash said the Rays sent down infielder Kevin Padlo when adding Fleming to increase the pitching staff to 14 so they would have extra coverage over the next several days.

* Yoshi Tsutsugo said he feels he made some adjustments at the plate that should cut down on strikeouts and he feels less pressure hitting lower in the order than at leadoff, having gone 5-for-34 (.147) thus far.

* Tsutsugo faced Rangers starter Kohei Arihara just once in regular-season play in Japan, in a June 14, 2016 game. Tsutsugo went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Here is the Rays lineup:

And here is the Rangers lineup:

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