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Jeffrey Springs to replace demoted Josh Fleming in Rays rotation

Notes | Springs will step in Monday at the Angels; Fleming will head to Triple-A Durham to try to get straightened out.
Pitcher Jeffrey Springs talks with Rays teammates during the first day of spring training at Charlotte Sports Park on March 13, 2022.
Pitcher Jeffrey Springs talks with Rays teammates during the first day of spring training at Charlotte Sports Park on March 13, 2022. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published May 7|Updated May 8

SEATTLE — The Rays are moving Jeffrey Springs into their rotation after shipping Josh Fleming out to Triple-A Durham.

Springs will start or work behind an opener Monday against the Angels in Anaheim. Slotting him in then allows the Rays to give Corey Kluber and Shane McClanahan an extra day’s rest before their starts, pushing them back to Tuesday and Wednesday. (And, potentially, setting up a McClanahan-Shohei Ohtani matchup Wednesday).

Springs earned the promotion due to his exceptional work out of the bullpen and in increasingly extended appearances, throwing a season-high 43 pitches on April 28 and a seasonlong 3⅓ innings on Tuesday.

In 13 innings over nine games, the lefty has allowed just one run, seven hits and three walks while striking out 14, and he has been equally effective and left- and right-handed hitters.

“We just like his stuff, like the way it’s playing, like the way he’s bouncing back,’' manager Kevin Cash said Saturday. “Definitely the changeup is kind of the equalizer to the righties, and being left-handed helps against the lefties.’'

Fleming has been struggling, with another unimpressive outing Friday and a 2-3, 6.38 record. After a solid season debut, his numbers over five outings are rough: 23 runs (13 earned), 24 hits and nine walks in 15 innings.

The Rays are hoping he can get straightened out pitching more in a less-pressurized setting at Durham.

“Let’s get him in a better spot,’' Cash said. “A better head spot, better spot on the mound where he’s having success. He’s a guy that has done some good things for us. I think we’re still working on that pitch distribution a little bit, trying to find the right balance. Maybe that setting will help him out a little bit.’'

Right-hander Ralph Garza Jr. was called up to fill the open spot in the bullpen. He made one appearance for the Rays on April 12 and was 1-2, 3.00 in seven games at Durham.

Medical matters: Ji-Man Choi, Shane Baz

First baseman Ji-Man Choi flew in from Tampa, said his previously sore right elbow felt good, went through a full pregame workout and is expected to be activated Sunday, missing the minimum 10 days. Infielder Isaac Paredes would seem likely to be sent down to make room. ... Pitcher Shane Baz, who had arthroscopic elbow surgery in March, is set to throw live batting practice Monday and could soon start a minor-league rehab assignment, with a target of joining the Rays when eligible June 6.

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Tampa Bay Rays players will be wearing and using a lot of pink Sunday in honor of Mother's Day, including these cleats for  catcher Mike Zunino.
Tampa Bay Rays players will be wearing and using a lot of pink Sunday in honor of Mother's Day, including these cleats for catcher Mike Zunino. [ MARC TOPKIN | Times ]

Players will be wearing gray hats with a pink logo and using pink bats, batting gloves, cleats, socks, arm sleeves, bat tape and other equipment Sunday for Mother’s Day. ... Sunday’s game will air on Bally Sports Florida due to Lightning playoff coverage on Bally Sports Sun. … Top Seattle pitching prospect George Kirby will be called up to start Sunday, his major-league debut. ... The Elias Sports Bureau changed the scoring in Friday’s game, taking the win away from Ryan Thompson for an “ineffective and brief” outing and giving it to Brooks Raley instead of a save. ... Top Rays minor-leaguers for April: Class A Charleston’s Dru Baker (.435, 1.269 OPS, three homers and 14 RBIs in 13 games) and Logan Workman (1-0, 1.10, 26 strikeouts, 16⅓ innings). ... During the three-game series that starts Monday, the Angels will join the Rays in wearing green ribbons to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month and honor former bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez, who died by suicide in January.

Homecoming for Mike Zunino

Catcher Mike Zunino was born and raised in southwest Florida, went to college and makes his offseason home in Gainesville, and has — very happily — played the past four seasons with the Rays. But he still has roots and fans in Seattle, where he played the first six years of his career — drafted No. 3 overall in 2012 — and has homered at least once in each return visit.

“The fans have been great,” he said. “There’s been a lot of time here, a lot of games. So to be able to see some fans, hear some people yell and try to get my attention, it’s great. There was a lot of growing up, a lot of history here for me, so it’s nice to come back and still hear fans cheer for me here.”

Manuel ‘Mar-go-ahead’ coming up clutch for Rays

There’s something about Manny.

Outfielder Manuel Margot has been a solid hitter since being acquired from the Padres during spring training 2020, but he has become one of the Rays’ most clutch producers this season.

He did it again late Friday (around 1:20 a.m. Saturday Tampa Bay time), hitting a three-run homer in the ninth to turn around a 6-5 deficit and lead the Rays, despite one more Seattle scare, to an 8-7 win.

It was the fifth time in Margot’s 22 games this season that he delivered the winning RBI, matching San Diego’s Manny Machado for second most in the majors behind Angels outfielder Taylor Ward’s six.

And it was the third time this season (and second in three days) that Margot delivered a go-ahead run from the eighth inning on, and the eighth time in his career.

“He’s been in a lot of those situations, and he’s got a lot of hard-hit balls in those kinds of situations,” teammate Randy Arozarena said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “We always hope, anytime he comes up, hopefully he does something well so that we can hopefully get the win when he does.”

Margot laughed when asked about teammates calling him “Mar-go-ahead” for clutch hits, but he said there are several keys to his success.

One is always being prepared to contribute. Especially on a day such as Friday, which was looking like an off-day as he wasn’t in the lineup. But he went into the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement, then came up in the key situation in the ninth.

“You’ve got to be ready,” he said, via Navarro.

Another factor is being relaxed at the plate, not trying too hard, or doing too much.

And being willing to battle.

“Just try to be competitive out there,” Margot said. “I just try to compete as much as I can, and ideally — you don’t know what’s going to happen in situations like that — but as long as you just stay (in) there, I think you can be OK.”

Overall, Margot has been doing a lot well. He went into Saturday with hits in each of the first six May games, with a .455 average (10-for-22) and eight RBIs to show for it.

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