Blake Snell put together his sharpest outing of the Grapefruit League season on Monday in the Tampa Bay Rays 8-2 win over Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Snell, who sought to bounce back from a poor outing against USF, threw 27 total pitches for (19 for strikes, 70% strike rate), and fanned two. His two-inning outing came against the Phillies “A” hitters, including Bryce Harper, who Snell caught looking on an inside fastball at 96 mph.

That fastball was set up by a filthy 82 mph curveball which Harper swung over.

Snell credited to the entire Phillies lineup, including the $330-million man, for bringing out the best in him.

That whole lineup is tough. I don’t really key in on a guy. It’s a lefty, it’s a righty, is who I focus on. I’ve got to attack the zone. They’re going to do what they do, I’m going to do what I do, so I really don’t care who’s hitting. That lineup is nasty.

— Blake Snell

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner also said it was good to face a challenge at this point in the spring.

It’s a lot easier to get ready because if you don’t, they are going to make you pay for it. No one likes to get embarrassed. (This week) taught me a lot, I’m a lot better, which I needed, which is awesome. And to come here to get it going again, to get the focus going, cause that’s when I’m at my best, when I’m focused.

— Blake Snell

The Rays employed a four-man outfield against Harper, which they also used previously against Chris Davis and Justin Smoak. Third baseman Kean Wong moved to left field, leaving shortstop Willy Adames to man the left side of the infield when the southpaw-hitting Harper stepped into the batter’s box.

Kean played left field, it makes it easiest. Why not have less movement, just go straight out to left and have Willy stay up the middle?

— Kevin Cash

Cash continued by saying that particular shift is something that will be done based on the in the game personell.

If Duffy gets healthy and he’s accustomed to playing the outfield, then he might go out there. We’ll have more thought that goes into it once the season starts. Right now let’s get the bodies out there and get everybody the reps and see it.

— Kevin Cash

Kevin Kiermaier understood the reasoning behind the shift.

It’s our job to do what they tell us to do, I understand where they’re coming from. It’s one of those things where we know we’re taking a risk if we make a play we wouldn’t have with three outfielders we’ll look like geniuses, and other times where, you know, guys hit ground balls to a certain spot where if we had the regular alignment it’s not going to look so great. Everything we do out there is all for a purpose and you hope that those guys who we do play the four-man outfield against that they hit it where we think it’s going to go more times than not. That’s the whole reasoning why. And those guys we do it against we’re okay with giving up a single because Justin Smoak, Chris Davis, Bryce Harper — the guys we’ve done it against — we’re okay with them hitting singles, we just don’t want them beating us with their strength hitting the ball in the air…

— Kevin Kiermaier

Wilmer Font, who is battling for a long relief/bulk inning job, had his longest outing of the Spring, posting 1-2/3 scoreless innings. Yonny Chirinos entered after Font and posted a strong performance, striking out four across 2-1/3 innings of work. The right-hander lit-up the in-house radar gun, hitting 97 mph with his fastball.

Offensively, both Avisail Garcia and Brandon Lowe continued their torrid Spring campaigns.

Garcia launched his second homer in as many days, and the third of the Spring.

Lowe walked and scored on Garcia’s first-inning sacrifice fly. An inning later, Lowe blasted a bases-loaded two-run double to right that nearly was a grand slam.

Lowe now has six doubles (eight extra base hits), 13 RBI, and is slashing .464 BA/.516 OBP/.893 SLG/1.454 OPS on the Spring.

Kevin Cash told Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) he was pleased with the pitching, and the complete effort in Clearwater on Monday.

The New What Next

The Rays will visit the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Ryan Merritt will start for Tampa Bay, pitching opposite of Aaron Sanchez. Hunter Wood, Ryne Stanek, Oliver Drake, Hoby Milner, and Adam Kolarek also are expected to pitch in Dunedin.

Rays 3/12/19 Starting Lineup

  1. Meadows RF
  2. Pham DH
  3. Choi 1B
  4. Diaz 3B
  5. Wendle 2B
  6. Robertson SS
  7. Kiermaier CF
  8. Heredia LF
  9. James C
  10. Merritt RHP


— Cash still doesn’t have a timetable on when Matt Duffy will be available, conceding that the third baseman may start the season on the injured list.

I don’t want to say that’s he’s going to be; I don’t want to limit him, so I’ll wait. Probably next Monday we’ll get a better sense. Obviously time is becoming crucial.

— Kevin Cash

— Outfielder Tommy Pham will be the designated hitter this afternoon and could return to the outfield by the weekend.

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