The Tampa Bay Rays kicked off the Grapefruit League season with a pair of 6-3 wins on Friday, beating the Pirates in Port Charlotte and the Orioles in Sarasota.
In Port Charlotte, Brad Miller kicked off his comeback campaign with a two-RBI opposite-field double off the wall in left, and some solid glove work at first base — this despite suffering, and subsequently playing through, a fractured pinky toe on Thursday.
He looked really good, said manager Kevin Cash after the game. He’s looked really good. And to see him driving the ball that far the other way, it’s a good sign.
After posting sub Mendoza-Line numbers in his 2017 campaign, Miller knows there is a lot to prove:
It’s good getting back out there, Miller said. Getting your timing down as a hitter, and just kind of getting on your feet in the field. … All-in-all a good day.
Cash was also pleased with the defensive play of Daniel Robertson at second base, a solid 1-1/3 scoreless inning performance by Austin Pruitt, and Diego Castillo — the Rays minor-league reliever of the year for his work at Double-A and Triple-A — who posted a 1-2-3 scoreless eighth; hitting the upper ’90s with his fastball.
That’s kind of him, Cash said of Castillo, who makes pitching look effortless. He doesn’t look like he’s letting it go that much but it sure comes out pretty good.
Robertson made several sterling defensive plays at second, one to take away a potential run in the third. The infielder was hit on the left hand with a pitch in the fourth inning, his final plate appearance, but said he was fine, albeit “with just a little bruising.”
Cash said they plan to try Robertson in the outfield soon to potentially expand his duties.
At the plate, Tampa Bay took the lead in the third inning, crossing home four times to erase an early one-run deficit. Kevin Kiermaier drove in the first two runs with a bloop single, while Miller capped the rally with the aforementioned two-run double. Adeiny Hechavarria homered and Brett Sullivan singled home a run in the sixth, capping the scoring.
Meanwhile, in Sarasota, Yonny Chirinos set the tone with a pair of scoreless frames. Chirinos, one the candidates for a multi-inning relief role, began tinkering with a split-finger fastball toward the end of last season. And while the pitch is a work in progress — he is still working on the grip — the new pitch reportedly looked good Friday, as he retired six straight after allowing a leadoff single to ex-Ray Tim Beckham.
It’s still a developing offering, pitching coach Kyle Snyder said, but he does he feel a lot more confident in that than the changeups. … It has swing-and-miss potential. It’s a groundball option.
Micah Johnson got things off to a good start in Sarasota, working a 12-pitch walk. Willy Adames drove in the first run on a sacrifice-fly, while Nick Ciuffo and Kevin Padlo drove in a pair of runs each — Padlo on a two-run homer. The Rays held Baltimore scoreless until the ninth inning, when they scored three against Tampa Bay’s minor league talent.
The New What Next
The Rays will take the show up to Ft. Myers on Saturday, where they will face AL East rivals, the Boston Red Sox. Jake Faria, Matt Andriese, Dustin McGowan, Ryan Yarbrough, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Evan Scribner and Jose Mujica are slated to pitch in the matinee ball-game.
Rays 2/24/18 Starting Lineup
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) made mention of a few miscellaneous, yet noteworthy, items:
— The new mound visit rules were a slight issue in the opener when the umps stopped Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage from going to the mound because the catcher had already been out. They said it would then have been a second visit and he would have had to take out the pitcher. “There’s a little bit of confusion right now on how the visits go and when you get docked a visit,” Cash said. “It seems like there’s been some mixed messages.”
— Christian Arroyo, the Hernando High product acquired from the Giants, won’t play the first couple games but says he’s actually ahead of schedule in return from offseason hand issue. He is set to take first live BP on Saturday and proceed from there.
— Anthony Banda, acquired Tuesday from Arizona, threw a live BP session, impressing with his arm stroke and delivery.
— Daniel Hudson, acquired Thursday from Pittsburgh, is expected to join the Rays on Saturday. He passed on the opportunity to ride the Pirates’ team bus down from Bradenton on Friday.