CHICAGO — Zach Eflin had his own problems Wednesday, not feeling like he had his best stuff for a second straight start while facing a Cubs lineup that had been a bit frisky the previous two days.
Then there were the issues during the first several innings with the PitchCom receiver inside his cap not functioning. The receiver allows him to hear the pitches catcher Christian Bethancourt calls by pressing buttons on a transmitter.
“It was super annoying,” Eflin said. “They just weren’t working the first two or three innings. They worked, like, every third or fourth pitch.”
At times, Eflin and Bethancourt resorted to old-school signs. Other times, as Bethancourt tried repeatedly to get the call transmitted, they just had to wing it.
“There were a couple of pitches where I don’t even think CB knew what pitch was coming. I just threw it,” Eflin said. “We did signals, and then when the (pitch) clock was running down and we didn’t have a sign, I kind of just threw the ball up there and see what happened. … It’s not fun. You’re battling the clock and not knowing what pitch you’re throwing.”
Rays staff brought different receivers to the mound in the first and second innings. Eflin said a Major League Baseball official provided a different set after the third inning that worked better.
Eflin also noted that only the Rays had an issue.
“It didn’t seem like the Cubs were having any problem with it,” he said. “But for some reason, they just weren’t working (for us Wednesday).”
Elfin nonetheless delivered a solid start, working into the seventh while allowing just two (first-inning) runs. After striking out none for the first time in a start (in which he was unaffected by injury) on May 25, he logged fives Ks on Wednesday.
Right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong worked two 1-2-3 innings for Triple-A Durham Wednesday in what would seem to be his final rehab appearance before joining the Rays for the weekend series in Boston. Armstrong has been sidelined since reporting to spring training with a neck issue. He could be a good veteran addition to the shorthanded bullpen, coming off a career-best 2022 season in which he went 2-3 with a 3.60 ERA and two saves in 43 games. … Right-handed reliever Zack Littell, sidelined since May 24 with shoulder inflammation, is doing better and could start a rehab assignment by the end of the weekend.
Tyler Glasnow is set to work Friday’s opener of the four-games-in-three-days series in Boston, with Taj Bradley starting Sunday’s finale. The Rays’ plans for the two games on Saturday (played as a 1:10 p.m. and 6:10 split doubleheader) are unclear. Josh Fleming is likely to start or work bulk innings behind an opener in one of the games, with the potential for a similar plan or a true bullpen game in the other. The Rays can add a 27th man, likely to be a multi-inning pitcher, possibly Cooper Criswell or Yonny Chirinos.
Fan voting for lineups for the July 11 All-Star Game in Seattle started Wednesday via mlb.com, team sites and apps. Cash said several Rays deserve support. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of guys that should be in the mix and the top conversations,” he said. “The way we’ve performed as a team, and certainly there’s some individuals that have put together some really strong first halves.” Rays on the ballot, chosen by team officials earlier in May, are Bethancourt, catcher; Yandy Diaz, first base; Brandon Lowe, second base; Wander Franco, shortstop; Isaac Paredes, third base; Harold Ramirez, DH; and Randy Arozarena, Josh Lowe and Jose Siri, outfield. Pitchers and reserves are chosen by a players’ vote.
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Franco was out of the lineup Wednesday as his left shoulder was “a little dinged up” as the result of his slide into home Tuesday. Cash said the team wasn’t overly concerned, and Franco could have been available off the bench. … The Rays swiped two bases, extending their team-record streak of consecutive steals to 25. They lead the majors with 77 steals. … Wednesday was the 16th of the Rays’ last 27 games decided by one run and the 19th by one or two. … The Rays are off Thursday, having played 16 straight days (9-7) and 29 of 30 (17-12). ... Cubs starter Justin Steele left after three innings due to left forearm tightness.
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