Spring Training is over! The Tampa Bay Rays finished their Grapefruit League season on Friday by tying the Atlanta Braves at two-runs apiece in Kissimmee, yet falling to the Detroit Tigers by a 9-4 margin in Lakeland. In spite of the differing outcomes, the most important development of the afternoon is that the team came out of the Spring healthy ahead of Opening Day on Sunday.
In Lakeland, Tampa Bay took a three-run lead in the second inning after Steven Souza Jr. hit a sac-fly and Tim Beckham crushed a two-run homer ― his second in two days. Yet Le Tigre evened up the score against Matt Moore in the bottom of the frame, after Anthony Gose smoked a three-run homer which followed a pair of free passes.
For the left-handed Moore, that was the only hit he would allow in three innings and 59 pitches (33 for strikes) of work. Moore posted 3 IP/1 H/3 ER/3 BB/3 K/1 HR slash line over the course of his start. Previous to the three-walk second inning on this fair day, Moore had walked just three batters all Spring.
Detroit took a commanding lead with a five-run fourth after all the Rays starting position players were pulled from the game (Moore included). However, Ryne Stanek followed with an impressive 4 IP/1 R stint in which he regularly hit the upper 90s with his fastball.
In Kissimmee, Logan Forsythe collected a sac-fly and a walk in his final tune-up before Opening Day. Corey Dickerson and Brad Miller both came up big, recording fifth inning singles before departing from the game.
Adam Wilk started the game strong for Tampa Bay, facing just one over the minimum through the first three frames. And while the southpaw retired the first two batters he faced in the fourth, the southpaw surrendered two runs on four consecutive base-hits to Adonis Garcia, Nick Markakis, Jeff Francoeur and Tyler Flowers.
Jaime Schultz followed Wilk and worked five shutout innings to finish the game.
Afterward and roster notes
Tampa Bay finished Spring Training with a 12-13-2 record. After an off-day Saturday, they will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into Tropicana Field for a four game series to open the season. Chris Archer will toe the rubber Opening Day opposite of RHP Marcus Stroman.
Kevin Cash is expected to finalize the team’s 25-man roster before the game. Cash said the plan is to wait until Saturday to announce final roster decisions; there are two openings and four players ― Mikie Mahtook, Andrew Bellatti, Dana Eveland and Danny Farquhar ― vying for a spot. According to Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) Eveland not being on the Ray 40-man roster, and presumably having interest from other MLB teams, could complicate decision (Twitter link).
The skipper did announce the Opening Day lineup Friday afternoon. The lineup looks similar to the one released on March 29th, yet there is one noticeable difference ― Hank Conger will get the start behind the plate, not Curt Casali.
The lineup follows:
Souza Jr RF
Cash told reporters that Conger was chosen over Casali because he has been hitting right-handed pitching really well. The Rays manager allowed that while Casali is not starting on Opening Day, he will get his fair share of time behind the plate. You can hear audio of his interview below (courtesy of Rays Radio)