The Tampa Bay Rays evened up their 2021 Knutson Cup record to 1-1 on the season when they defeated the Minnesota Twins, 5-2, in Port Charlotte. Ryan Yarbrough and Luis Patiño — who made his Rays debut — teamed up for a pair of scoreless frames, while Tampa Bay scored four of their five runs on outs, thus doing a good job moving the ball.
Yarbrough got the start and allowed a two-out walk to Jorge Polanco before he punched out Miguel Sano on three pitches. As with live batting practice, the left-hander threw to newcomer Francisco Mejía, who also collected a hit and an RBI.
Obviously, different intensity facing a different team. When you face your own hitters there’s some semblance of it, but it’s kind of up a notch when you get to live games.— Ryan Yarbrough
Rays manager Kevin Cash said aside from the walk, Yarbrough looked sharp.
Nice to see one of our guys start the buildup. He was kidding that he walked a guy — normally doesn’t walk too many guys — so I’m sure he’s got plenty of reps to fine-tune that. But he looks really crisp.— Kevin Cash
Patiño followed Yarbrough and, well … threw gas.
It’s a good feeling. I got to pitch for the first time with a Rays jersey. I feel excited. I feel happy to do my job and come in here to do my job and help the team. I’m feeling very happy to be here.— Luis Patiño
The right-hander gave up some loud contact, yet he threw seven of his 10 pitches for strikes and boasted a 94-96 mph fastball to go along with a slider and a couple of changeups.
Mejía, who was a teammate with Patiño in San Diego, said he thought Patiño pitched with control and confidence on Thursday.
I don’t think he’s really changed too much. I just think coming here helped him with his confidence and allows him to just be the guy he wants to be.— Francisco Mejía
Cash was pleased with Patiño’s ability to throw strikes, which has been a focal point for Tampa Bay this Spring. Patiño coaxed three swinging strikes on Thursday with “rising” fastballs at the top of the zone.
Yeah, 95- to 100-(mph fastballs), whatever it is on that given day, that’s going to be just fine.— Kevin Cash
Mejía caught four innings and pulled a 99.9 mph single to right off of Hansel Robles. The Rays expect Mejía to rediscover the form at the plate that made him a highly-touted prospect. So far, he has received strong reviews from the established hurlers that have worked with him.
We’ve already started to get on point, get some chemistry going. I feel like he’s a great target behind the plate, especially for me with how I throw, so I’m looking forward to throwing to him a lot this year.— Ryan Yarbrough
Ji-Man Choi got the start at first for the first time this Spring and went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run. Choi sat out the last few days due to a sore knee and made his Spring debut as the Rays’ DH on Wednesday. Per Cash, he’s progressing without any restrictions.
Just took a few days off, but he’ll be right back into the routine, the schedule of getting in the flow with the rest of the first basemen.— Kevin Cash
The New What Next
The Rays will visit the Red Sox in Fort Myers for the second time in three days, on Friday. Rich Hill will make his Rays’ debut and will be followed by Joe Ryan, Drew Strotman, Ryan Sherriff, and Ryan Thompson (in no specific order). I will update this piece with the starting lineup upon availability.
Rays 3/5/21 Starting Lineup
- Wendle SS
- Mejía DH
- B. Lowe 2B
- Brosseau 3B
- Phillips CF
- Smith C
- Gomez LF
- Whitley RF
- Gray 1B
- Hill LHP
— Chris Archer is slated to pitch on Saturday morning in an intrasquad game, while Tyler Glasnow scheduled to start a contest that afternoon against the Braves. If it rains on Saturday, Archer could instead start on Sunday. Collin McHugh is expected to throw one last batting practice session before appearing in games.
— Speaking of Archer, it would appear that the right-hander is refining his changeup which, ideally, would keep batters off his fastball. The other day, Archer posted a video overlay of his fastball and changeup on Instagram. I got to talk with the hurler about the pitch, which I initially thought was a slider. However, he confirmed the offspeed pitch was, indeed, a changeup with two-plane movement. It will be interesting to see how much he utilizes the offering during Grapefruit League contests.
— Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier (hip tightness) is scheduled to make his Spring debut on Tuesday, in Port Charlotte.