ST. PETERSBURG — Rays outfielder Luke Raley has answered back to the New York WFAN radio hosts who recently said they were “very suspicious” about the Rays’ strong start since they had “a bunch of journeymen outperforming their baseball cards,” and suggested they were cheating.
Raley did so in fashion, having a friend from Ohio make and ship T-shirts with a rebuttal mocking what Evan Roberts and Craig Carton said, a video of which circulated among the team:
“That video, it hit us,” Raley said. “So we want to own it.”
Plus, Raley said, the skepticism/criticism can provide some motivation:
“It’s one of those things — keep doubting us; we’re going to come out and keep playing good baseball.”
Raley said his friend originally wanted to be more aggressive with the wording on the shirt. “I worked with him a little bit to make it,” Raley said. “He wanted to make it worse than it is. I was like, let’s keep it kind of generic. Everyone gets the message, I think.”
The WFAN Twitter account responded to a posting of a photo of Raley’s shirt asking: “Can we get a free one?” Raley said his friend has no plans to sell them one.
Uncomfortable place to be
Raley is very much a team guy, so when manager Kevin Cash asked him to take the mound in the eighth inning with the Rays down 10-1, he agreed to make his second relief appearance this season, which would also be his second since his days as a not-very-good pitcher at Highland High in Medina, Ohio.
“It’s not my favorite place to be,” Raley said. “I’ve told them before I got rocked in high school, so I can’t imagine what these guys would actually do to me if I tried to pitch. So, just try to lob it over the plate and save our bullpen.”
His first inning went well, as he allowed one run on two hits, and had a highlight moment, striking out Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Given the results with his arsenal of 50-mph pitches, Raley was sent back out for the ninth. That didn’t go as well. Raley got two outs, then allowed three singles and a grand slam to Guerrero. He gave up another hit, then a homer to Matt Chapman before being taken out.
Cash joked that Raley needs to develop a changeup. Raley said “Yeah, I definitely need to do something different. I can’t just throw those 50-mph balls up there all the time. They start getting hit. They definitely got their timing on me the second time through the order. So it is what it is. I’m not a pitcher.”
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When Cash brought in catcher Christian Bethancourt to finish the ninth, Raley got some cheers from the crowd of 11,906 that had been booing earlier.
“I heard them and I appreciate it,” Raley said.
“Everyone, you might think it’s fun to be out there. But it’s scary at the same time. I’m not a pitcher. I can leave the ball over the plate, and those guys hit the ball really hard and it can get back to the pitcher’s mound real quick. So I don’t envy pitchers in general, and I don’t envy myself being out there. But I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do and keep us healthy and fresh for (Wednesday) to continue to win games.”
Do as I say
The Rays spend millions of dollars and have dozens of staff devoted to maximizing pitching performance, but lefty Josh Fleming has a secret method of his own.
Asked after Monday’s outing about getting key ground balls when he needed them, including two double plays and 12 outs on the ground overall, Fleming said the key is pitch execution.
But as for how he gets there? “I was telling myself in my head, ‘Like, hey, get a ground ball right here, get a ground ball, and just, execute the pitches.’ If I execute my pitches right, I know I can get a ground ball. So just kind of combination of me telling myself, ‘Hey, you can get a ground ball here,’ and just executing.”
Does it really work that easily?
“I mean, honestly, it makes things easier,” he said. “When I do tell myself to throw certain pitches in certain spots, I think it makes pitching a little bit easier. So it’s what I was doing (Monday) and it worked. So I’m going to keep doing that.”
The Glasnow cometh
Tyler Glasnow is lined up to be activated Saturday and pitch for the first time this season, a welcome addition at any juncture, but especially with two other key starters, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen, sidelined due to injury. Glasnow sustained a left oblique strain early in spring training and has been working his way back.
“Regardless of the injuries, I think having Tyler Glasnow back no matter what is important,” top starter Shane McClanahan said. “The guy’s been busting his butt to get back as soon as he can. We’re excited to see what he can do for us and what we know he can do for us.”
The Rays’ previous largest loss was an 18-run margin (22-4) in the opening game of a July 23, 2002, doubleheader in Boston. ... Tuesday was the seventh time they Rays allowed 20-plus runs, last on Aug. 11, 2021, at Boston. ... Cash said Brandon Lowe was to be in Tuesday’s lineup but he woke up with a stiff neck and was scratched. He could be available off the bench Wednesday. … Cash said Tuesday was just a day off for Yandy Diaz, as he wants him to play Wednesday vs. lefty Yusei Kikuchi and on Thursday. … Former Rays/current Jays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said he “loved” the tribute video played during Monday’s game. ... The 35-15 start is the best through 50 games in franchise history. ... McClanahan starts Wednesday coming off a strong Friday outing against the Brewers, shutting them out over a season-high seven innings, striking out seven and walking only one. ... Raley wasn’t aware the Trop game production crew played Star Wars music after his Monday home run, but being a fan of the movie franchise he said he liked the idea.
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