With three games left in the Grapefruit League season, the Tampa Bay Rays were able to walk away from Tampa with their 13th tally in the spring win column. The pitching staff stifled the Yankees, blanking them throughout course of the game and allowing only four hits and four walks. Meanwhile James Loney and Desmond Jennings combined to go 5-6 with three runs, an RBI, and two doubles.
— Starting pitcher Jordan Norberto kicked things off strongly, quickly coaxing two poppers out of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner — both to left field. Yet he didn’t fare well against Carlos Beltrán and Mark Texiera, relinquishing two consecutive base hits with Brian McCann stepping to into the batter’s box. McCann was able to work a full count before Norberto threw a filthy 81 mph sweeping slider on the outer portion of the plate to shut down the Yankees opening threat.
The righty came back out for the second inning and allowed free passes to Chase Headly and Alex Rodriguez. After falling behind Stephen Drew, Norberto was able to force the Yankees second baseman into a 3-6-3 double play. Yet the three wasn’t over. Norberto walked another batter to put runners on the corners, however, he was able to pop Ellsbury out for the second time in as many at-bats.
On the whole Norberto’s breaking pitches looked sharp, as did his fastball when he was able to locate the pitch. If he doesn’t crack the Opening Day roster, he could make an impact on the Rays at some point in the season, assuming he continues to progress with Triple-A Durham.
— Grant Balfour followed Norberto and put together an incredibly efficient eight pitch inning (six strikes) with one strikeout. The veteran RHP is slated to make one more appearance on Friday, telling reporters he should be ready to go after that,
My stuff’s good. I’m happy where I’m at right there. Feel good. I’m out there throwing strikes, and that’s what I want to do. I feel like I’m working a little faster and throwing strikes. And that’s a good thing.
For what it’s worth, Balfour’s put away pitch this afternoon was a filthy, biting, slider to Brett Gardner. If you recall, his slider was largely ineffective last season, because he was unable to set it up properly since he lacked fastball command. If he can regain that command with fidelity, Balfour could be effective once more.
Rays manager Kevin Cash has been impressed by Balfour’s work this spring, telling Rays Radio,
For a limited spring, he has looked very sharp, and he keeps getting better.
You can hear Cash’s comment below:
— Kirby Yates was next in the parade of pitchers, and though he posted two innings of no hit ball, he wasn’t as effective as his line suggests — at least in his first inning of work. Yates fell behind the first two batters he faced (3-0 and 3-2) before inducing a fly-ball to right and a grounder to short. He was able to fan Alex Rodriguez on four pitches, however, of the 12 total pitches Yates threw in the inning, only five were strikes.
Yates was markedly better in the following frame, using just 11 pitches (eight strikes) to coax two grounders — both to Asdrubal Cabrera — and a strikeout (looking) of Ellsbury.
— Jhan Marinez then threw three, one-hit innings on 40 pitches (26 strikes), fanning four along the way. If the seeing eye test is worth anything, this was easily Marinez’s best outing of the spring.
— James Loney (3-3) doubled as part of a three-hit performance Tuesday afternoon. Desmond Jennings (2-3) doubled and scored on Loney’s second-inning single, giving the Rays all the runs they would need in the contest. Jennings scored twice and raised his batting average to .463 for the spring.
All indications point to a left-fielder who’s ready for the season,
I feel pretty good, Jennings told Bill Chastain (MLB.com). Feel like I’ve prepared myself for [the season].
The New What Next
Chris Archer will start for Tampa Bay Thursday afternoon when the Rays travel to Clearwater to face the Phillies. Also slated to action are Nathan Karns, C.J. Riefenhauser and Steve Geltz. This will be the final tuneup for Archer and Karns, who are expected to start during the first series. The Rays will work out prior to the game at Tropicana Field for the second straight day.
Rays 4/2/15 Starting Lineup
Cabrera SS Jennings LF
- 3B Evan Longoria is a late scratch from the lineup due to an illness (a cold). He instead will take part in drills at the Trop as a simple precaution against dehydration. Longo would play during the season.
- Kevin Cash called Nathan Karnes and Jake Odorizzi as the number two and three starters behind Chris Archer to start season for games two and three against Baltimore. Cash told Marc Topkin the decision was based on matchups, although a keen onserver could see this decision in the making — with both Archer and Karns scheduled to pitch this afternoon, the rotation was set for Archer to start Monday on four days rest and Karns on Tuesday on regular rest. The number four starter is TBD.
- Recent acquisition Erasmo Ramirez “most likely” will be used as a starter, however, the team will wait to talk to him upon arrival Tuesday night. Cash also said Matt Andriese is still “in a good spot,” suggesting he will be used in bullpen. It should noted, the Rays need a fifth starter for the April 14th game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman said nothing is official, however Ramirez will likely be used as a starter for the moment. Silverman values his experience and potential for length in games, suggesting he will transition to the long relief role once Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb return from the DL. The team is expected to continue looking for pitching, but according to Silverman, Ramirez was “the biggest move we had considered.”
- How much Ramierz can you take? Ian Malinowski (DRaysBay) writes, right now, the newest member of Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff is a just a stopgap because of injury, but he has the potential to stick in the rotation. Click the link to learn more about the Rays newest starter.
- Drew Smyly threw live batting practice at the Trop Tuesday and will do so again on Saturday. All signs point to a good session, “based on his reactions and the high-fives from his teammates,” writes Marc Topkin. Alex Cobb played catch again, while Alex Colome will throw live batting practice on Friday.
- We here at X-Rays Spex absolutely LOVE this:
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) April 1, 2015
- According to the Tampa Bay Rays Facebook page, there will be some new foodstuffs at the Trop this season, with local favorites Taco Bus, Ricky P’s and more: