Wander Franco and Austin Meadows went yard on Wednesday, while Josh Fleming, Shane McClanahan, and a handful of others limited Pittsburgh to just a run as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Pirates, 4-1, in Port Charlotte.
Rays skipper Kevin Cash said it was the best-pitched contests of the Spring, as six pitchers threw an inning apiece, and gave up just one run and a walk with five strikeouts. However, a pair of hurlers — McClanahan and Fleming — were stellar. The former threw 10 pitches (eight strikes) in a scoreless first, boasting a nasty slider and hitting 101 mph on the in-house radar gun.
There was also a lot of strikes, which I’m more happy about. I’ve been feeling good. The guys here put me in a good position to be healthy and to be ready to compete, day in and day out, so I think that’s just the result of being prepared.— Shane McClanahan
Fleming followed McClanahan and quickly worked a clean frame, coaxing a popout and a groundout, and punching out a batter while leaning on a sinker full of verticle movement.
They were coming out swinging the bat, being ultra-aggressive, but he was able to throw that sinker into lefties and jam them,” catcher Mike Zunino said. “He naturally fills the strike zone up but misses barrels. We’re right where he left last season, which is a great spot.— Mike Zunino
Cash said both McClanahan and Fleming will be built up as starters this Spring and are “very much in the mix” to play roles with the big league squad this season.
Those aren’t fun at-bats. When you’ve that kind of movement or that kind of velocity behind it. They both get there different ways but they’re both very talented and they’re going to play big roles for us.— Kevin Cash
Hunter Strickland, Andrew Kittredge, Jeffrey Springs, and Joey Krehbiel followed the above-mentioned duo.
Meanwhile, Franco hit a mammoth homer on the first pitch of the second inning that either hit off the top of the office building beyond the walkway in right-field or completely cleared it — no one is entirely sure, including Franco.
That one went into the parking lot, I think. Everyone’s saying that it went over the building. I didn’t see it.— Wander Franco, through team translator Manny Navarro
Wherever it landed, the number one prospect in baseball said he couldn’t recall ever hitting a ball that far in a ball-game.
Meadows drove in the Rays’ final two runs of the contest on a two-run moon-shot to right-center, landing on the bottom of the aforementioned building.
Middle infielder Vidal Brujan proved his utility worth by making his first start with Tampa Bay in centerfield. Cash noted that they would have explored the possibility of testing Brujan’s flexibility last season, however, the pandemic prevented that.
He’s a pretty electric player. Physically with the speed, the arm, all of those things. We all know how much we value versatility. To have a guy that can come in and play center field, shortstop, second base, that’s pretty special.— Kevin Cash
A sign of things to come? Brujan was excited about the opportunity to play in the outfield, something he hopes to continue in the future.
Mentally I was able to get a lot more calm and a lot more relaxed. Especially being around a lot more veteran players and some more guys in the big leagues. When I was around in the playoffs and all that, it helped me get a little more experience and learn a lot more. … Hopefully I can be the next Kiermaier, or even better,” said Brujan through Navarro.— Vidal Brujan, through team translator Manny Navarro
The New What Next
The Rays look to avenge their loss to the Twins when they head to Ft. Myers on Thursday. Ryan Yarbrough and Luis Patino are scheduled to pitch, and I’ll update this piece with the other hurlers that are slated take the mound.
Rays 3/4/21 Starting Lineup
— Ji-Man Choi is scheduled to play his first game of the Spring at first base.