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Rays’ Ryan Thompson testing limits of pitch clock rules

Notebook | An attempt to quick pitch against Atlanta’s Travis d’Arnaud leads to a “super friendly” conversation at home plate.
 
Rays relief pitcher Ryan Thompson, seen here earlier this spring, is trying to see what he can get away with when it comes to the new pitch count rules.
Rays relief pitcher Ryan Thompson, seen here earlier this spring, is trying to see what he can get away with when it comes to the new pitch count rules. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published March 17, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — Reliever Ryan Thompson sees spring training as a chance to not just get used to the new pitch clock rules, but to see what he can get away with.

“I think a lot of us are just trying to test the boundaries of these new rules and try to see what is allowed and what isn’t,” Thompson said.

Thursday, that included trying to quick pitch Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud, delivering the ball as soon as the ex-Ray got set in the box at the required eight-second mark.

And that led to an odd moment afterward when Thompson approached the plate to chat about the situation with d’Arnaud, who had already been talking with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi about whether it was legal, and at another point called his one allotted timeout.

“All the small little things, I’m just trying to learn as a I go, so that was the conversation, super friendly,” Thompson said. “He was just saying, ‘Hey, sorry, man. I was just trying to figure out what was going on.’

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m being kind of a jerk, but I’m trying to figure out the rules, too, and trying to see what I can and can’t do.”

Thompson’s strategy was to look at the clock and be set and throw “right when the nine seconds went away, and the eight didn’t come up yet” given that d’Arnaud was considered “engaged” since he had both feet in the box and was looking at the mound. Thompson said manager Kevin Cash told him what he was trying to do “was kind of borderline.” Cash said later “that will get called.”

Game details: Rays 2, Twins 0

At Fort Myers, rotation candidate Josh Fleming allowed one hit and struck out five over four sharp innings (44 pitches/30 strikes), and non-roster right-hander Cooper Criswell (30/35) did the same over three for a team led by Triple-A manager Michael Johns. … Non-roster infielder Tristan Gray homered off former Triple-A teammate Joe Ryan, his third of the spring, to go with a .467 average. Said Cash: “Tristan Gray hit another homer — shocker.” … Prospect Kyle Manzardo singled in the first run. … The game was played in 2:04.

Game details: Rays 5, Braves 1

At St. Petersburg, Jeffrey Springs had another dominant outing, striking out seven over 4 1/3 innings, throwing 49 off 68 pitches for strikes. Even more impressive: “I was fighting myself a little bit mechanically early.” … Manuel Margot had a three-run homer and a double. … Taylor Walls felt good after three at-bats at DH in his spring debut, having been sidelined by an oblique issue, and will play again Saturday, with Cash saying with no setbacks “he should have plenty of time” to be ready for opening day, which is two weeks from Thursday. … Three key relievers — Pete Fairbanks, Jalen Beeks and Garrett Cleavinger (who had two balks) — “all looked really good,” per Cash. ... The Rays are 10-8-1.

Miscellany

The camp roster was reduced to 69 by reassigning three right-handed pitchers to minor-league camp: Evan McKendry, Anthony Molina and Evan Reifert. … Catcher Christian Bethancourt returned from Taiwan, where he played for his native Panama in the World Baseball Classic, and he will rejoin the Rays lineup Friday. … Cash said he didn’t know yet when to expect shortstop Wander Franco, catcher Francisco Mejia, process/analytics coach Jonathan Erlichman and bench coach Rodney Linares, who were part of the favored Dominican Republic team that was ousted Wednesday at the end of pool play in Miami.

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