Rays’ Zach Eflin fitting in, building up for start of season

The pitcher had to get through some adversity Monday, but the team is happy with its big offseason acquisition.
Zach Eflin, pictured during an exhibition game against the Twins last week at Tropicana Field, says he is feeling good physically and refining his pitches at this point in the spring.
Zach Eflin, pictured during an exhibition game against the Twins last week at Tropicana Field, says he is feeling good physically and refining his pitches at this point in the spring. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published March 20|Updated March 21

NORTH PORT — Zach Eflin struggled Monday against the Braves. The Rays’ big offseason acquisition was hit often and allowed four runs in an exhibition loss at CoolToday Park.

But manager Kevin Cash was just fine with the right-hander’s start.

“A good work day,” Cash said. “He was around the zone. Probably didn’t throw as many strikes as he was looking for, but sometimes it’s OK to have a little adversity this late in spring, to battle through it a little bit. Glad he got his work in. Glad he went out for the (fourth) inning, whatever it was, to make sure he got that up. And still, his stuff looked totally fine. So, pleased with that.”

Eflin, who signed a three-year, $40 million deal over the winter, gave up four earned runs on seven hits over 3-1/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out one.

Eflin said afterward he feels good physically and is just refining his pitches.

“I just felt like I was fighting my mechanics a little bit, throwing a lot more balls than I wanted to,” he said. “I had a tough time adjusting to the mound. I was really having some difficulty out there. But I got my pitch count up, and I feel good.”

Eflin, who had a 4.49 career ERA in seven seasons with the Phillies, was more concerned with building up arm strength for the regular season than results.

“I think that the first couple outings were more so kind of crawling into the next inning or crawling in the last inning,” he said. “And (Monday), I felt pretty strong the entire time. So, that was a positive for me to feel. So, you know, flip the page and on to the next one.”

Eflin has a 6.23 ERA in his three spring starts, but the Rays have been very pleased with how he has fit into the rotation.

“He doesn’t stand out. He just has fit in really, really well,” Cash said. “His work and performance has kind of coincided with the rest of the starting group — really good.”

Game details: Braves 6, Rays 5

The Rays got some production from their regulars Monday. Yandy Diaz hit a two-run homer, and Brandon Lowe had a solo shot. “That’s two balls in consecutive days that Yandy has kind of pulled, got up in the air. That’s encouraging to see,” Cash said. “I mean, confident Yandy’s gonna do his thing at the plate, but it’s really nice when you complement each other. And B-Lowe, potentially having them back-to-back in the lineup.” … Taylor Walls also had a homer after taking an automatic strike for not paying attention to the pitcher with 8 seconds left on the pitch timer. Walls also had a double.


Bally Sports Sun made it official that Matt Joyce and Denard Span will serve as analysts on the “Rays Live” pregame and postgame shows. The network also announced that radio play-by-play man Andy Freed will fill in for long-time TV voice Dewayne Staats, who is entering his 26th season, when Staats takes 25 games off this season. Freed has called games for the Rays since 2005. ... The Rays sent minor-league outfielder Jordan Qsar to the Phillies for cash. The 27-year old, a .245 hitter in the minor leagues, spent time in Double-A and Triple-A last season.

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