The Tampa Bay Rays followed a one run loss Friday afternoon, with a one run victory against the Baltimore Orioles, Saturday. There were a few noteworthy highlights; Nathan Karns tossing a perfect four inning start, and catcher Reńe Rivera’s two run, fourth inning blast to left field being just a couple. The Rays walked away from Sarasota with their fourth win of the spring, bringing their Grapefruit League record to a respectable 4-6-1.
— Nathan Karns, perfect through four. Suffice it to say, the Rays starting rotation will be strapped to start the season, thanks to Alex Colome’s bout with pneumonia and Drew Smyly’s bout with tendinitis. Enter Nathan Karns. PECOTA projected that Karns would factor into things on the starting rotation with the big league squad. If Saturday’s start was indicative of anything, he’s all in for one of those open spots. The challenge for Karns, Saturday: face a lineup consisting largely of Opening Day starters.
With a past drought with command issues ideally behind him, Karns pitched four scoreless innings of no-hit baseball, striking out two and walking none. The Rays righty threw 53 pitches (33 strikes, 62% K/BB) overall, and they pitches — especially his knuckle curve ball — looked sharp.
Karns spoke with Michael Kooligian (MLB.com) about the possibility of earning a spot on the starting rotation,
I’m just out there playing the game that I enjoy and love playing every year, and whatever happens that’s their decision. I’m just here to put my best foot forward, no matter what.
Also speaking about the lineup he faced on Saturday, which bore a resemblance to the Orioles’ regular season batting order, Karns continued,
It’s always going to be a challenge out there, facing all these hitters. But if I want that [starting] position, these are the lineups I’m going to be facing in the league. Why not face them now and see what happens?
Manager Kevin Cash praised Karns, noting his strike throwing and his ability to get on track after falling significantly behind a hitter. “A very, very strong outing,” Cash told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) in his post game presser.
— Rene Rivera hit a two-run blast to left in the top of the fourth inning, plating John Jaso in the process and giving the Rays a 2-0 lead.
— Kevin Kiermaier drove in Jaso on a ground-rule double to left in the sixth inning, giving Tampa Bay the extra run needed to take Saturday’s game.
— The defense had a hand in Karns’ success. True, Karns was deserving of his perfect line. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the guys in the field too. In the fourth inning, utility player Jake Elmore made a beautiful glove side diving play by to cut down Alejandro DeAza for the first out of the inning. Previous to that, in the second inning, David DeJesus mades a sliding catch in foul territory to retire Adam Jones.
The New What Next
The Rays will face off against the New York Mets in Port Charlotte, Sunday. Matt Andriese will take on his swarthy counter part Bartolo Colon. Andriese has shown promise in his previous two Grapefruit League outings as he continues to battle for one of the open spots in the Rays rotation.
Rays 3/15/15 Starting Lineup
- The MASN game announcers reported that Drew Smyly (tendinitis) is expected to throw off the mound Sunday afternoon. Be it as it may, Topkin reported Sunday morning that even if everything goes well, it is unlikely the lefty will be ready to start the season. Smyly was expected to pitch in game three of the Opening Series against the Orioles, though Cash said Odorizzi may get that start instead. Smyly could be ready soon thereafter and shouldn’t miss too much time — at least as of now.
#Rays Cash acknowledges today what has seemed to be the case, that Smyly, even if all goes well, is unlikely to be ready for start of season
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) March 15, 2015
- Cash said it was “status quo” on RHP Alex Colome (pneumonia) who could be released from hospital Sunday. Colome will need at least seven days before he gets back on the field, making it likely he won’t be ready to start the season.
It’s an illness that certainly will sap him of some strength, Silverman told reporters. We will need to be aware of that and be patient with him as he builds himself back up.
- It was also reported that Matt Silverman is exploring rotation options to patch the potential holes in their rotation for the start of the season.
With two starting pitchers that aren’t ready at this point, there’s concern. We’re continuing to evaluate options that we have within the organization as well as continue to monitor the other 29 teams.
It’s still early in spring, there’s a lot of time between now and Opening Day to determine plans. But the wheels are spinning, and we’re working on contingencies already.
Besides Nathan Karns, the team has a handful of in house options to act as a stop gap in the interim — righties Andriese and Burch Smith, and lefties Enny Romero and Mike Montgomery. The team could go outside for a starter or for depth to plug in at Triple-A Durham.
- Reliever Grant Balfour is back, and reportedly has a good frame of mind after his father’s passing in Australia. Balfour told the media he’ll draw motivation from it. To honor Balfour’s father, David, who was a longtime executive with the Sydney Blue Sox in Australia, the team will wear blue socks (pictured below).
- Jake McGee is excited for his first off-mound throwing session on Tuesday — a big step in his recovery from elbow surgery.
- The Rays decided Brandon Guyer (oblique/lat strain) won’t play against the Phillies, Tuesday. He will take live batting practice against Balfour instead.