ST. PETERSBURG — Last year, Kyle Manzardo was chosen as the Rays’ top minor-league player.
His performance this spring, until being reassigned to minor-league camp Saturday, accelerated his progress to becoming a big-leaguer.
“Maybe as good of an impression as anybody in camp,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It’s really cool to see a guy come in that you hear a lot about and not just back it up but do more than back it up.
“It’s easy to put comps on guys — I won’t do that with him — but he’s talented, and he’s got a knack for getting the barrel to the bat. He’s hit everywhere he’s been. Hopefully he keeps hitting, and we’ll see him.”
Manzardo, 22, had two hits Saturday, including an RBI single in the eighth, improving his average to .333 (9-for-27) with two homers, nine RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage.
The 2021 draftee was pleased with his showing in his first big-league camp.
“That’s kind of what you come here hoping to do is play well, show the big guys what you can do, what your game is,” Manzardo said. “I feel like my play was a good representation of who I am as a player.”
He was one of 11 non-roster invites reassigned to minor-league camp, reducing the spring roster to 58. Six were other position players: catchers Logan Driscoll and Blake Hunt, infielders Austin Shenton and Ronny Simon, and outfielders Kameron Misner and Tristan Peters.
The moves were made so the players could get to work preparing for their minor-league seasons. Among Cash’s parting words of praise, he noted that Misner “really made some nice adjustments at the end of last season;” that Hunt “can really catch, (we) want to see him with some consistent reps;” and that Simon is a versatile and “exciting” young player with “great energy” who has a “pretty unique combination” of speed to steal bases and power.
Also reassigned were four non-roster pitchers who participated in the World Baseball Classic: Trevor Brigden, Andrew Gross, Joe LaSorsa and Graham Spraker.
Expected opening day starter Shane McClanahan worked five sharp innings, in what he called “a good stepping stone,” allowing a solo homer to Gilberto Jimenez (who played in 2022 at Class A) and an infield single. He struck out six and walked two, throwing 42 off 67 pitches for strikes, hitting 98 mph.
“Besides the two walks, I felt like I really did a good job of throwing strikes,” he said. “Even on those walks, it is what it is. I felt like I was throwing pitches that might need the work or just trying to throw a different pitch than what I thought was the right call but in the right situation. I shook to some pitches and just wanted to get my work in. Other than that, I felt like I threw the ball really well.”
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McClanahan was making his third spring start, and first since March 6, having thrown four innings of live batting practice on March 12.
Game details: Rays 3, Red Sox 1
Centerfielder Jose Siri showed his ability to create a run in the second inning, reaching on an error, stealing second, stealing third and scoring on an errant throw. “We’re going to win games because of his foot speed,” Cash said. … The Rays (12-9-1) got their other run when non-roster outfielder Ben Gamel doubled in Rene Pinto. … Taylor Walls, playing third for his first spring defensive action after an oblique injury, started a smooth double play. “We’re gonna win games because of Walls’ defense,” Cash said. ... Rule 5 pick Kevin Kelly showed nasty movement in striking out three in the ninth. .... Attendance was a Tropicana Field spring-high 6,444.
Wander Franco, who rejoined the team Saturday after playing in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic, is slated to DH Sunday. … The Jays are scheduled on Sunday to start Alek Manoah, who was 16-7, 2.24 last year and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting.
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