The Tampa Bay Rays will play their first split squad game of the spring today, with one squad heading to Sarasota to take on the Orioles and the other staying in Port Charlotte to host the Yankees.
First, a little house keeping
— Mallex Smith made an outstanding catch to rob Joe Mauer of a home run in the first inning of Tuesday’s contest against the Twins.
Smith also pushed a bunt past the Twins third baseman for a leadoff single, drew an errant pickoff throw to first (that was mishandled) which allowed him to move up to second, advanced to third on a fly-ball to right and finally scored on a sacrifice-fly to center.
Rays manager Kevin Cash was complimentary of Smith for his work on bunting.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player work that hard at it. So he’s pretty special in that regard.
Following the game, Smith spoke about the flashy tools he showcased Tuesday.
(Audio Courtesy of Rays Radio)
— Nick Franklin continues to stake his claim for a place on the Opening Day roster. Franklin collected three hits yesterday — one to left, to center and to right — and raised his spring average to .571 (12-21). Finding a roster spot, however, might not be the easiest of tasks.
Because of his slow progress in rehabilitating from offseason heel surgery, Matt Duffy will likely start the season on the disabled list, meaning Tim Beckham — who also is having a strong spring — is expected to get the most of the reps at short. Compound that with the fact that the Rays will have to create a roster spot in order to add Rickie Weeks to the 25-man. It is plausible for Franklin to fill the super utility role, however, he will have to show off his defensive tools in the outfield and in the middle infield.
— Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), Jose De Leon remains very much a prospect in progress. De Leon, acquired from the Dodgers for 2B Logan Forsythe, said he felt he took “a step forward” Monday, allowing three runs on two hits (one a 3-run HR) and a walk over three innings. That’s relative, because his first outing was really bad and his second was just okay. He was 90-93 with his fastball but command remains elusive, evidenced when he followed a 15-pitch first inning with a 26-pitch second, and needed 54 overall to get the nine outs. Manager Kevin Cash said De Leon’s command was “a little bit better,” but it’s obvious he needs more work.
— Of bumps, bruises and strains. Brad Boxberger (lat/back) said his the bullpen session he threw Monday went well, and he is scheduled to throw another tomorrow. Still, no date has been set for his exhibition debut, although “he still feels he definitely will be ready for the April 2 opener,” writes Topkin. Shawn Tolleson said his back has been feeling good and he is eager to get on the mound today for his second spring outing.
The New What Next
Blake Snell will get the start against the Orioles in Sarasota, and will be followed by Hunter Wood, Chih-Wei Hu, Ryan Yarbrough and Jake Faria. Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza Jr. will make the trip to Sarasota, while Smith and Kevin Kiermaier will stay home. Jake Odorizzi will get the start against the Yankees in Port Charlotte, and will be followed by Shawn Tolleson, Jaime Schultz, Austin Pruitt and Diego Moreno.
Rays 3/14/17 Starting Lineup vs. Baltimore
Rays 3/14/17 Starting Lineup vs. New York
— Chris Archer rejoined the Rays on Monday, and will pitch in a minor league game in Port Charlotte on Thursday to remain on schedule for Opening Day.
Per Topkin, there was some talk of Team USA officials having Archer pitch instead on Friday in San Diego, but he will stick to the original plan and stay with the Rays.
The right-hander is scheduled to pitch next on March 22 — the date of the WBC championship game — and could be available then if Team USA is playing.
Jake Odorizzi will not be added to the United States roster for the second round, due to a scheduling conflict.