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Miles Mastrobuoni receives raucous reception before Rays debut

Some of the team’s coaches, players and staff members seemed near tears when they saw him in the clubhouse.
Miles Mastrobuoni entered Thursday's game as a defensive replacement at second base in the eighth inning.
Miles Mastrobuoni entered Thursday's game as a defensive replacement at second base in the eighth inning. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Sep. 23|Updated Sep. 23

ST. PETERSBURG — From the time infielder Miles Mastrobuoni entered the clubhouse to the moment he stepped on the Tropicana Field turf, he was greeted by constant hugs, high-fives, handshakes and backslaps. Some of the Rays coaches, players and staff members even seemed near tears when they saw him.

It obviously was a popular move when the Rays called up Mastrobuoni from Triple-A Durham in time for Friday night’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. He entered as a defensive replacement at second base in the eighth inning.

Mastrobuoni, 26, endeared himself to minor-league coaches and teammates with his versatility, attitude and leadership. At Durham, he batted .300 with 32 doubles, 16 home runs, 64 RBIs and 23 stolen bases, while leading the International League in runs scored (92). He also ranked fourth in total bases (238) and fifth in batting average.

“All of his Triple-A and Double-A coaches rave about him,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It was maybe one of the best receptions I’ve seen for a young player to walk into the clubhouse for the way that he was received by the guys already here. You can just tell that he’s very well-liked and well-respected.”

Rays second baseman Miles Mastrobuoni throws during infield practice before Thursday's game against the Blue Jays.
Rays second baseman Miles Mastrobuoni throws during infield practice before Thursday's game against the Blue Jays. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Mastrobuoni, a 14th-round pick in 2016, has methodically worked his way through the Rays’ system in six seasons (the 2020 slate was cancelled by COVID) while playing in 615 minor-league games. He’s a middle infielder who also plays third base, along with all three outfield positions.

“It means that so much hard work, dedication and sacrifices are paying off and you’re seeing a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” Mastrobuoni said. “I think the best way to describe me is ‘gamer.’ Day in and day out, I’ll leave it all out on the field and use my defensive versatility and swing to help this ballclub.”

Mastrobuoni said his family — his parents, girlfriend and newly married brother and wife — were scheduled to travel from New Jersey and attend games this weekend. Just two weeks ago, Mastrobuoni was in his brother’s wedding.

“It’s going to be tough to top this month,” he said. “I’m glad we can all enjoy it together. Things might not go your way. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can take a real look in the mirror and see what’s going on. When it comes down to it, you have to put your head down, work and trust that what you’re doing will pay off in the end.”

Big game for Springs

Rays left-hander Jeffrey Springs (9-4, 2.45 ERA), Friday night’s starter, said he’s relishing the chance to face the Blue Jays.

“Every game the last week-and-a-half or so has seemed like a playoff atmosphere,” Springs said. “You know the importance of it. This could be the wild-card matchup, so maybe it’s a preview of what’s to come. It will be a lot of fun.”

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Springs, who began this season as a reliever, will make his 22nd consecutive start. He has won six of his last seven decisions with a 2.06 ERA, 13 walks and 53 strikeouts in that 48-inning, nine-start span.

“I’ve had some ups and downs, but I’ve learned a lot and I’m excited about the opportunity to help us win and go as deep as possible in the postseason,” Springs said.

Minor-League awards

First baseman Kyle Manzardo was named Player of the Year and left-hander Mason Montgomery was named Pitcher of the Year to highlight the Rays’ annual Minor League awards.

Manzardo, splitting time between Class A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery, hit .327 with a 1.043 OPS. Montgomery, also splitting between Class A and Double-A, was 6-3 with a 2.10 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 124 innings.

Other honors went to Durham’s Javy Guerra (Relief Pitcher of the Year), Charleston infielder Carson Williams (Defensive Player of the Year), Charleston/Bowling Green outfielder Mason Auer (Baserunner of the Year) and Charleston first baseman Bobby Seymour (Erik Walker Community Champion, given to minor leaguer who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement).

Team Most Valuable Player honors went to infielder Jonathan Aranda (Durham), infielder Brett Wisely (Montgomery), outfielder Heriberto Hernandez (Bowling Green), outfielder Shane Sasaki (Charleston), infielder Junior Caminero (Florida Complex League), outfielder Angel Mateo (Dominican Rookie League) and first baseman/outfielder Elias Petiyan (Dominican Rookie League).

Miscellany

The Rays’ clubhouse staff presented leftfielder David Peralta with a bottle of tequila to commemorate his 1,000th major-league game. Peralta said he didn’t realize the milestone had occurred. … The Rays are 9-7 against the Blue Jays and can clinch the season series with another victory. If the Rays and Jays finish with the same record through 162 games, the tiebreaker is the season series. … The Rays reached 50 home wins for the sixth time in franchise history. … Right-hander Tyler Glasnow will make his fourth (and presumably final) start for Triple-A Durham on Friday night. If all goes well, he’s expected to join the Rays next week. … As part of Mastrobuoni’s call-up, catcher Rene Pinto was optioned to Durham and right-hander Kevin Herget was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. … Cash said third baseman Yandy Diaz, who has missed three straight games with a shoulder injury, received a cortisone injection and could return Friday night. … Second baseman Brandon Lowe, on the injured list since Sept. 12, was back in the clubhouse and still a bit sore, maybe from pain injections. Lowe did some range-of-motion exercises in the pool.

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