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Rays’ Drew Rasmussen ‘in a good place’ to face Blue Jays

Notes | Right-hander has cobbled a run of three consecutive solid starts while still refining his repertoire.
Rays pitcher Drew Rasmussen throws to a Mariners batter during the first inning of a May 7 game in Seattle.
Rays pitcher Drew Rasmussen throws to a Mariners batter during the first inning of a May 7 game in Seattle. [ JASON REDMOND | Associated Press ]
Published May 12|Updated May 12

ST. PETERSBURG — Drew Rasmussen starts Friday against the Blue Jays on a pretty consistent roll.

In his last three starts, he has worked six, five and five innings. He has allowed zero, one and one runs. He has given up two, one and five hits. And he has thrown 84, 83 and 88 pitches.

Effectiveness and efficiency are a good combination, and he is 3-0, 1.13 over that stretch.

“I think it’s been pretty telling,” Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder said. “It’s three outings in a row. Obviously Oakland there in the middle, but faces Seattle twice in three starts and to perform the way that he did against an offense that has been pretty productive in the early stages of the year, I think he’s in a good place.”

More impressively, Snyder said, is that Rasmussen is still getting comfortable throwing the sweeping slider he added this spring to get hitters to expand the zone, and he is making better use of the tightened-up version of his old slider, which he now calls “the cuttery slider.”

“He is retooling two breaking balls kind of on the fly,” Snyder said. “I think he’s done a tremendous job with it and maintained a really open mind about it. He’s seen some results, and I think the trend line is going where we need it to go.”

Because Rasmussen has had two Tommy John elbow surgeries, and because he has been used primarily as a reliever and/or in limited duty since turning pro in 2019 with Milwaukee, the Rays try to handle him cautiously and closely monitor his workload, especially after moving him into the rotation on Aug. 12.

“Obviously he’s a tremendous competitor,” Snyder said. “He’s given us no signs that this is a role that he’s not capable of handling, even with the injury history, two Tommy Johns and last year’s workload. But we’ll certainly be mindful of that going forward.”

Snyder said “for the time being” the Rays plan to keep Rasmussen in the rotation, giving him extra rest or a lightened workload when they can, and trusting the relationship and transparency he has shown to be honest in how he feels.

Welcome strangers

The Rays will host the Jays and manager Charlie Montoyo, a long-time Tampa Bay coach, for the first time this year. The Jays are a trendy pick to win the AL East, but come in having lost four straight with a 17-15 record and minus-13 run differential. (The Rays are 19-13 and an uncharacteristic minus-3.)

“They’re a good club,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “They lost a couple really good players that performed well for them (infielder Marcus Semien, pitcher Robbie Ray). They replaced them with some other really good players (infielder Matt Chapman, pitcher Kevin Gausman). ... Playing the American League East, it’s a grind throughout the season. And we’ll just add to it this weekend.”

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Miscellany

Outfielder Manuel Margot, sidelined since leaving Monday’s game with right hamstring tightness, is expected to be back in the lineup Friday. … Reliever Luke Bard, who was in camp with the Rays, was reinstated at Triple-A Durham on Thursday after serving a 10-game suspension and being ejected from the April 29 game for using an illegal substance. … Going into play Thursday, Bulls infielder Jonathan Aranda led all minor-leaguers with 43 hits, giving him a .347 average, four homers, 22 RBIs and a .922 OPS… Saturday is Star Wars night at the Trop, with 100-plus costumed entertainers at Gates 1, 4 and 5 and roaming the stadium; special ticket packages that include a Star Wars Rays jersey are available at RaysBaseball.com/StarWars.

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