The Rays will continue their road trip Friday night by heading home — sort of. Officially, it’s the start of a four-game road series against the Toronto Blue Jays, but the games will be played at Dunedin’s TD Ballpark, the team’s temporary home due to the coronavirus.
TD Ballpark is about 22 miles from Tropicana Field. Rays players will sleep in their own beds and have the option of driving themselves to Dunedin, though a bus will depart from the Trop.
“It should be a lot of fun,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “The guys will appreciate that we’re wearing gray uniforms, but we’re getting to sleep at home. We’ll have to play well to have success because Toronto is a good ball club. We’ll take as many Rays fans as they’ll allow in or want to show up. It’s unique. I’m excited to go over there.”
The Blue Jays have played 17 major-league games this season at Dunedin, which is the team’s spring-training home. After the Rays finish the wraparound series Monday afternoon, the Blue Jays will shift this season’s home field to Buffalo, N.Y., in a move to avoid potential rainouts during Florida’s summertime rainy season.
“It works out in our favor,” Rays outfielder Brett Phillips said. “We get to go home, sleep in our beds, see our wives and just stroll on over to Dunedin for a big-league game, which is crazy. Regardless of the circumstances, we’re going to show up and treat it like we’re playing in Toronto.
“With the (stadium’s) renovation, it sounds like it’s pretty nice over there. It looks like the ball flies from what I’ve seen. It’s going to be interesting how many Blue Jays fans compared to Rays fans (will be there). I know a lot of Canadians live in our area with summer homes, so I’m sure there will be quite a few Blue Jays fans there, rightfully so. We’re going to treat it like a regular big-league game.”
A laugh, then a shot
There was a comedic moment in Thursday’s ninth inning. With the game out of hand, the Orioles saved their pitching and turned to utility player Stevie Wilkerson for the mound. After Wilkerson got the first two outs, Joey Wendle swung and missed at a 45-mph offering. Wendle stepped out, trying to keep a straight face, knowing he would take grief back in the Rays’ dugout. On the next pitch, he drilled a solo home run to rightfield.
“It’s almost like a mental battle hitting against a position player,” Wendle said. “A lot of guys don’t like it. I knew everybody in the dugout was laughing, especially our fearless manager (Cash). I figured he was having a good time with that one. I got one massive cut off, at least.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“I give that guy (Wilkerson) credit, it’s amazing he can actually command the baseball at that velocity,” Cash said. “It’s not an easy thing for hitters to face a position player. All the pressure is on Joey. He got a hold of it and hit it a long way.”
Cash did enjoy the sequence, but it didn’t diminish his appreciation of Wendle — not by a long shot.
“He means the world to our club,” Cash said. “The way we’re able to stick him at third, at short or at second and get elite defense at any spot we ask him to play … we’re fortunate to have that kind of versatility from a guy who’s that good of an offensive player.”
Glasnow ready for more
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow, coming off his career-longest outing (eight innings in no-decision against the Mets), said he’s eager to keep going deep into games.
“It was cool (because) I’ve never done that before,” Glasnow said. “I’ve felt I was capable of it. With how baseball is now, they don’t let pitchers go that long. It was a cool accomplishment. Hopefully, I can do it again.”
Glasnow, who has never beaten the Blue Jays, said he isn’t worried about pitching in Dunedin, where home runs have been commonplace.
“You’re just out there competing and trying to get guys out,” Glasnow said. “I don’t really care about the surroundings. I only have to control a little bump or whoever I’m throwing to. I’m going to treat it like any other start.”
Friday night, the Rays can tie their longest win streak (eight games) since 2018. … The Rays are 21-11 after a 5-8 start to the season. … After Thursday’s game, reliever Louis Head was optioned to Triple-A Durham. A corresponding move is expected Friday and it could be the elevation of right-hander Michael Wacha (hamstring) from the injured list. Cash said Wacha made it through his bullpen work okay and was expected to be activated during the Blue Jays’ series. … Shortstop Willy Adames, who suffered calf cramps on Wednesday night’s final play, didn’t play Thursday but that was planned. Cash said Adames will be full-go in the Blue Jays’ series.
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.