ST. PETERSBURG — At his best, Rays left-hander Josh Fleming is a quick-rhythm pitcher who induces plenty of ground balls with his effective sinker. It worked at Division III Webster University. It worked in the minors. And it has definitely worked during his brief major-league career (10 regular-season games in two seasons).
Sometimes, much to his astonishment.
“I’m a little surprised at how many guys hit the ball on the ground,” said Fleming, who works Saturday’s middle contest of a three-game series against the Houston Astros at Tropicana Field. “They tell me to throw sinkers down the middle and trust you’re going to get ground balls. Not that it’s easy, but I didn’t expect to get as many ground balls in the last few starts.
“It’s a little eye-opening to me. But that shows me you’ve got to trust your pitching … and you’ll get results. I’m sure guys are like, ‘I want to trust what I think more,’ but its’ hard to go against (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) telling you to throw to your strengths. You see the results. Our coaches know exactly what they have with us. When they tell us to do something, we’re going to do it.”
Fleming said he’s relishing the opportunity to face the Astros, who were defeated by the Rays in last season’s seven-game American League Championship Series.
“I know they have a few lefties, and that’s good for me,” Fleming said. “They are aggressive. They like swinging the bat. I expect them to come out swinging. With me throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes, hopefully I’ll get a lot of first-pitch outs. That would be wonderful.”
Hill expected back
Left-hander Rich Hill was placed on the COVID-19 injured list due to side effects from the vaccine. Cash said he expects Hill to be okay. Hill is scheduled to start Sunday afternoon’s game.
“He’s kind of groggy and achy, not feeling ideal,” Cash said. “Hopefully it’s a quick turnaround, because we’re going to need him to throw here real soon. This is what we’re finding out about the different vaccines. It seems like there’s a little bit of a (difference) in how people are reacting to them.”
Designated hitter Yoshi Tsutsugo was reinstated after not feeling well with the vaccine and hit eighth in Friday night’s lineup.
“Hopefully that’s how Rich will bounce back,” Cash said.
To replace Hill on the 26-man active roster, in a bit of a merry-go-round, the Rays recalled right-hander Louis Head from the alternate training site. Head was optioned to Triple-A Durham after Friday’s game.
Choi works out with team
First baseman Ji-Man Choi, on the injured list retroactive to March 29 after undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery, worked out with the team. He is expected to work out through the weekend, then join the Triple-A Durham squad, which begins its season Tuesday at Memphis.
Choi will be part of simulated games on Saturday and Sunday (along with reliever Pete Fairbanks and Collin McHugh, both also on the IL).
In other injury news, Cash said the team is discussing whether left-handed reliever Cody Reed (left thumb weakness) should play in a rehab game or is ready to be activated.
Meanwhile, Cash wasn’t sure when right-hander Chris Archer (forearm tightness) would return. He’s now away handling a private family matter.
“We’re hoping everything progresses in the right direction,” Cash said. “It’s best for us to support Arch in what he’s going through and continue to check on him. Physically, he said he felt good. He’s taken a little bit of time (off) from the actual grind of rehabbing and getting back.”
The Rays announced rosters for their four full-season minor-league teams that begin play next week. At Triple-A Durham, pitchers Brent Honeywell, Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, infielders Vidal Brujan and Taylor Walls, outfielder Josh Lowe and two-way player Brendan McKay (available to DH as he works back from shoulder surgery) will join top overall prospect Wander Franco. At Double-A Montgomery, top players include pitcher Shane Baz, catcher Chris Betts, infielder Miles Mastrobuoni and outfielder Moises Gomez and Garrett Whitley. Infielder Xavier Edwards (oblique tightness) is on Montgomery’s injured list. The restructured Class A teams are Bowling Green in High-A and Charleston, S.C., in Low-A (after moving from Port Charlotte).
In the Rays’ 27th game this season, it was the 27th different batting order. … Cash said left-hander Shane McClanahan, who made his regular-season major-league debut on Thursday afternoon, will have a regular spot in the rotation for the time being. McClanahan’s pitching workload is uncertain as he continues to build up. If it becomes a six-man starting rotation — even temporarily — Fleming said there are long-term benefits to having consistent off days from throwing. … Outfielder Randy Arozarena had the night off from starting. In last season’s ALCS, Arozarena was 3-for-5 with a home run against Lance McCullers Jr., Friday night’s starter. Cash said it was part of a normal plan to give regulars “a day off their feet” during a stretch of 17 games in 17 days. … Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough was the 15th left-hander to start against the Astros this season (26 games). ... Astros manager Dusty Baker got his 1,906th career win, putting him in 12th place all-time, just ahead of Casey Stengel. Bruce Bochy (2,003 wins) is in 11th place. … A new episode of “Rays All-Access” debuts tonight on Bally Sports Sun following Saturday’s Rays-Astros game. Host Tricia Whitaker will feature Tyler Glasnow and Honeywell, along with former reliever Roberto Hernandez.
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