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New look, new approach serves Rays’ Josh Fleming well

The lefty impressed in five-plus innings against the Red Sox in what appeared to be a one-day return.
Rays relief pitcher Josh Fleming delivers during the third inning of Monday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston.
Rays relief pitcher Josh Fleming delivers during the third inning of Monday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston. [ MARY SCHWALM | AP ]
Published Jul. 4

BOSTON — Josh Fleming looked different Monday than when he was last in the majors in early May, having cut his long hair and trimmed his beard.

“I just needed it to go,” he said. “My wife took a picture of my hair from behind, after I wet it down completely, and I was just like, my goodness, I can’t believe I was walking around like that. It kept getting knotty. It was time for a change. … I’m glad I did. It feels very refreshing.”

He pitched differently, too. And better.

“I felt really good,” he said. “I thought I made some good pitches.”

Fleming impressed for most of his five-plus innings, throwing strikes, working ahead in counts, getting ground balls and looking confident while allowing four runs (three earned) and eight hits.

“I thought Fleming threw the ball really, really well,” manager Kevin Cash said.

Fleming’s return appeared to be a one-day cameo, as the Rays need a roster spot to add Jeffrey Springs, who is slated to return from the family medical emergency list and start Tuesday.

But Fleming was able to show his bosses the benefit of his new approach, saying the demotion to Triple-A after his 2-3, 6.38 first month forced some changes.

“It really kind of did a number on me mentally,” he said. “So to be able to go down in Durham and kind of just relax and kind of find myself again was a breath of fresh air.”

The key, which seemed to work as he was 7-1, 2.36 in eight Durham games, was simplifying his thought process and focusing on each pitch rather than the potential outcomes, especially the bad ones.

Back with the team

Relievers Brooks Raley and Ryan Thompson were activated off the restricted list after missing the Toronto series since they are unvaccinated and couldn’t travel to Canada.

Thompson said he viewed the vaccine decision as “my personal choice” and didn’t want to discuss his reasons further. Under an agreement between the league and players union, they did not receive pay or service time for the days missed.

Thompson and Raley worked out at Tropicana Field during the four days and said it was tough to watch the games on TV.

“It’s super hard to be away,” Thompson said. “It was awesome to see the series win, that’s for sure.”

Cash said he welcomed back “two big parts of our pen” and appreciated the efforts of Javy Guerra, Phoenix Sanders and others who filled in.

“Excited to have Raley and Thompson back,” Cash said. “The guys that came up, they did do a nice job. Our bullpen is in better shape coming into this series for their work.”

Pitching shuffle continues

Guerra and Sanders were returned to Triple-A, though Sanders, who is on the 40-man roster, stayed with the Rays as a member of the taxi squad. … Reliever Cristofer Ogando, who on Sunday made his major-league debut at age 28, was optioned to Durham. … To make room on the 40-man roster for Ogando, reliever JP Feyereisen, out since early June with a shoulder bone bruise, was shifted from the 15- to the 60-day injured list. That pushes his return to Aug. 2 at the earliest. Cash said it wasn’t really a delay, as recovery has been slow. “Some of the stuff that he felt he still feels a little less, but we want it knocked out totally,” he said. … Luis Patino joined the team so head athletic trainer Joe Benge could assess the right middle finger blister that forced him out of his Saturday rehab start for Durham after three innings. Cash said the progress of the blister will determine the next move for Patino, out since early April with a left oblique strain. … Pete Fairbanks, out since a spring lat muscle tear, clocked 97-99 mph with what Cash said was “pretty electric” stuff Sunday in the first of several rehab outings with Durham.


Monday was the first time the Rays were shut out at Fenway Park since Sept. 9, 2017. … The loss was their eighth straight in the first game of a road series; they are 2-10 overall. … The Rays are 9-15 all-time on July 4. … The Rays had played a season-high-matching five games without an error until Monday.

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