“Maaaaaverick,” as said like Tina Fey imitating Sarah Palin. (Photo Credit: Brett Phillips)

After a well-pitched 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays look to bounce back against Atlanta this afternoon.

Rich Hill started for the Rays on Saturday and was fantastic, allowing just a hit and a walk across three scoreless frames. The left-hander was efficient, needing 36 pitches on the day (25 strikes, 70% strike rate). Hill, who was coming off a disappointing outing where he didn’t make it out of the first, said he felt the conviction in his pitches was the biggest change.

That was the biggest biggest difference getting on top of the ball, throwing the ball downhill. committing to the pitch and the task at hand right there. And just continued to have that downhill plane with the fastball and the curveball. And that’s a pretty successful recipe.

— Rich Hill

The southpaw did not overpower batters on Saturday; his fastball sat at 88 mph. However, he was able to locate his curveball down in the zone against Minnesota. He channeled all the disappointment he felt after his first outing of the Spring and rediscovered the feel and downhill plane he was looking for in two live batting practice sessions between starts. Simply put, everything clicked into place.

Once you get into the games, it’s a different feel, a different adrenaline. Whether it’s a game here or a game on the backfield or it’s the World Series, it’s always going to be that same intensity for me. So being able to find that consistency of the arm path and executing the ball on that plane is something that’s huge for me.

— Rich Hill

Following the game, Hill said he’d like to get to the five-inning/75-pitch mark by the end of Spring Training, which would put him in line to throw six innings or 100 pitches at the start of the regular season. Rays skipper Kevin Cash indicated that he made a good step in that direction.

He was really efficient. We didn’t have plans to throw him but two innings but his pitch count was so low, and he felt good and (Pitching Coach) Kyle (Snyder) said send him back out, let’s see what we’ve got. …For him to get three innings, it’s really good. Now we’ve kind of reset that a little bit, that delay, and he should be in line to get to that ‘magic number’ in Spring Training.

— Kevin Cash

Chaz Roe followed Hill and posted his own bounce-back performance, tossing a perfect fourth while striking out catcher Willians Astudillo, who is pretty hard to punch out. Roe told the media he was much more aggressive in the strike zone on Saturday.

Just getting my feet wet the first time was a little flat. The ball was moving side to side instead of getting a little bit of sink to it. I made some adjustments the last couple days and it worked out.

— Chaz Roe

Meanwhile, Cody Reed — who has been called the left-handed Chaz Roe — continued his impressive Spring, striking out Alex Kirilloff and Tzu-Wei Lin in a clean fifth. In three Grapefruit League outings (all against Minnesota), Reed retired all nine hitters he faced with four strikeouts.

Ryan Sherriff and Jeffrey Springs also threw scoreless frames. Cash says Reed was especially impressive.

He’s had a really good three outings, so that’s encouraging to see. He looks totally healthy. He’s landing the breaking ball in the zone.

— Kevin Cash

The New What Next

Drew Strotman will get the start against Atlanta this afternoon. Right-handers Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, and Nick Anderson, and Yacksel Ríos are also expected to pitch.

Rays 3/14/21 Starting Lineup

  1. Franco 3B
  2. Mejia C
  3. Adames SS
  4. Brosseau 1B
  5. Phillips CF
  6. Smith DH
  7. Boldt LF
  8. Brujan RF
  9. Quiroz 2B
  10. Strotman RHP


— Ji-Man Choi had his right knee examined by Dr. Koco Eaton on Saturday (along with an MRI). Eaton noted some inflammation in Choi’s knee. The first baseman/DH will be shut down for 7-10 days before being re-evaluated.

Should Choi be added to the Injured List, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Mike Brosseau, or Yandy Díaz could take over at first.

— Michael Wacha threw an intrasquad game on the backfields on Saturday, tossing three innings, then facing a batter to simulate starting the fourth inning. Cash said he has been impressed with Wacha’s fastball, cutter, and changeup.

He creates a lot of depth on the cutter and the changeup. Asking (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) at different times, ‘Which one was that?’ I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s going underneath the barrel. Either one will work.

— Kevin Cash

— Brent Honeywell Jr. also threw in the intrasquad game, which was his first live batting practice of the Spring. The right-hander, who hasn’t thrown in a minor league game in three-plus seasons, tossed 20 pitches and looked really sharp.

I think everybody walked away very encouraged. Fastball velocity was really good. The changeup, the breaking ball, everything he threw was really crisp, really sharp. Just excited for him, I think most of our entire camp was out there watching.

— Kevin Cash

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