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Josh Fleming had one bad inning for Rays, then five good ones

Rays notes | The three-run first inning led to a loss, but Fleming’s five additional innings saved the bullpen.
Rays starter Josh Fleming throws a pitch during the first inning of Saturday's game at Tropicana Field.
Rays starter Josh Fleming throws a pitch during the first inning of Saturday's game at Tropicana Field. [ STEVE NESIUS | AP ]
Published May 2
Updated May 2

ST. PETERSBURG — Josh Fleming quickly realized a mechanical flaw was the cause of his problem in the 34-pitch first inning Saturday, when he gave up three hits, walked two and put his Rays in a 3-0 hole.

“I came in just told myself, ‘That’s all they get, that’s all they get,’” he said after the 3-1 loss. “Just keep throwing strikes, and really just stay closed (in his delivery) and focus on throwing it more down the middle than trying to pick corners, because I felt myself trying to pick corners more then than I should have.”

Fleming was successful from then on, working five innings on a total of 64 pitches (including two innings of nine pitches each), facing 19 more Astros without allowing another hit (though he walked three more, one intentionally, for a professional career-high five). “I was happy with the way I battled back,” he said.

Though the Rays lost the game, Fleming’s work allowed them to save the bullpen, as Hunter Strickland worked two innings and Cody Reed one.

“(Fleming) did a nice job,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s done such a good job every opportunity he gets in taking the ball for us. The first (inning) was a little uncharacteristic of him that he kind of fell behind, you didn’t see the conviction, the intent, with the strike-throwing that we’ve seen so much out of him. They added the three runs right there.

“But give him a lot of credit for driving the pitch count up and then also kind of resetting and getting through six innings. Pretty remarkable effort. So, encouraged with that. It’s a very good offense. They’re going to take advantage of every little thing that you give them, and they did in the first inning.”

Special delivery

Outfielder Randy Arozarena got some exciting news before Saturday’s game, learning that the baby he and his wife, Cenelia Pinedo Blanco, are expecting will be a girl. The news was broken by teammates Willy Adames, Yandy Diaz and Manuel Margot in a video they shot that was played on the stadium board while Arozarena watched from the field with Blanco. “I was actually surprised; I had no idea (of the planned announcement),” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “She’s always trying to surprise me. But there’s times where I catch her on the surprise.”

Pitching in

Lefty Rich Hill is set to start Sunday after being reinstated from the COVID-19-related injured list, feeling sick on Friday as a result of side effects from the vaccine. ... The first two times reliever Louis Head was sent down this past week, he was brought right back as Yoshi Tsutsugo and Hill were sidelined due to vaccine side effects. Friday, the Rays sent Head to Triple-A Durham, and they meant it this time. Right-hander Trevor Richards was also sent down to make room for Hill and Cody Reed.

Miscellany

• The announced distanced attendance of 7,335 was the largest at Tropicana Field since the full-capacity 9,021 for the April 9 home opener.

• Rays pitchers allowed three or fewer runs for the seventh time in their last eight games.

• First baseman Ji-Man Choi is slated to work out with the Rays Sunday, then head to Memphis to play a week with Durham to finish rehabbing his right knee following March arthroscopic surgery.

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