CHICAGO — The White Sox held a pre-game tribute and moment of silence Thursday in honor of late radio broadcaster Dave Wills, who spent 10 years with the organization before joining the Rays in 2005. Wills, a Chicago native, died March 5 at age 58 at his Lutz home.
The Sox showed a montage of photos on the video board — including Wills pitching in a Sox uniform during a fantasy camp. Stadium public address announcer Gene Honda noted Wills’ tenure with both teams, his legacy as a caring father and loving husband, his passion for the game, and labeled him as “Rays broadcaster, long-time White Sox fan and friend to many.”
About 20 of Wills’ family members, including son Alex, were guests in a Guaranteed Rate Field suite, and 30-40 more friends were in stands.
“It was a wonderful tribute,” said Dave’s sister, Ronnie.
The Sox also placed a vase of roses and several Wills items in the visiting radio booth, which broadcasters Andy Freed and Neil Solondz appreciated.
“One of the joys of working with Dave was being with him for his homecomings to his beloved Chicago,” said Freed, his partner for 18 years. “It seemed like he knew everyone. (Thursday), like so many days the last few weeks, was emotional. I took some time to walk to many of the spots he’d show me. Experiencing Chicago without him for the first time, the silence was deafening.”
The Rays hosted a private memorial service for Wills at Tropicana Field on March 23 and a tribute before Saturday’s game at Tropicana Field.
Zach Eflin will have some familiarity Friday in facing the White Sox for the second straight start, but also some unfamiliarity as he will be pitching for the first time at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Eflin, who allowed the White Sox one run over five innings Sunday in his first start coming off the injured list, said the benefits from a back-to-back matchup could go either way.
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‘This game is so up and down and it always has a way of evening itself out, so don’t really go either way for either side,” he said. “It’s just another game for me.”
As for pitching in a new stadium? Not that big a deal. Some pitchers in that situation will want to get a feel for the mound or the backdrop in advance of their start.
Not Eflin. “I really don’t care about that,” he said. “I’ll go out and see the stadium during (batting practice Thursday). But I’ll just go out there (Friday) and see how the mound feels.”
The Rays limited Eflin to 67 pitches and the five innings since he had missed two-plus weeks with back tightness. Manager Kevin Cash said Eflin will be pretty much back to a normal workload Friday.
“I don’t think we’ve had a pitcher go 100 pitches yet, so he probably wouldn’t be the first,” Cash said.
Reliever Zack Burdi was obviously thrilled to get called up by the Rays and make it back to the majors for the first time since Sept. 6, 2021. Even better, after working a scoreless inning Wednesday against the Astros, he got to come home to Chicago, where he grew up in nearby Downers Grove (his parents still live there) and has a home (currently being used by his brother, Nick, who pitches in the Cubs system). “It’s been great,” he said, then threw two more scoreless innings against his former White Sox teammates. … Reliever Ryan Thompson (lat strain) seems likely to be activated Friday. … The Rays are bringing back a postgame concert series, announcing AJR, an indie pop band, as the first event, on May 19. The concert is free for ticket-holders, with a $30 upgrade for access to the field. … Centerfielder Jose Siri got the day off after playing two straight games following an injured list stint.
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