Rays Spring Game 12 Preview: Nate Karns Gets Chance to Impress

By Robbie Knopf

Unfortunately, we have arrived at the junction in spring training where the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitchers in minor league games can be more exciting than the major leagues ones. With the Rays going up against their division-rival Toronto Blue Jays today, they will throw Alex Cobb, Grant Balfour, and Joel Peralta in the first minor league game in 2014. What can you do? Their lineup is still interesting, though, and here it is.

1. Ben Zobrist, DH
2. Desmond Jennings, CF
3. Matt Joyce, LF
4. Logan Forsythe, 3B
5. Jeremy Moore, RF
6. Sean Rodriguez, SS
7. Wilson Betemit, 1B
8. Jayson Nix, 2B
9. Roman Ali Solis, C

Starting Pitcher: Nate Karns

Karns gets his first start of the spring in Cobb’s place, and this is a big day for him. He’s still trying to figure out why the Rays value him so highly, and more importantly, he is still theoretically alive in the fifth starter chase. A poor performance could lead to a demotion to minor league camp while a great start could keep him around another few days.

For Ben Zobrist, this is his first game after his stiff neck, which he hopes is his last injury of any kind this spring. He hopes to hit the ground this time around with as many as four at-bats today, and the Rays have to hope it will be smooth sailing from here.

Replacing Zobrist at second base once again has been Jayson Nix, who has done a decent job this spring, hitting .267 in his 17 plate appearances with a double and a 3-2 strikeout to walk ratio. Once again, he will face off against competitors Sean Rodriguez, Logan Forsythe, and even Wilson Betemit, and he hopes to do something to stand out.

Speaking of Betemit, he will be making his first start in the field this spring. Betemit packs a little more punch than the rest of the Rays’ prospective backup infielders, and if he proves he is healthy, he could be an interesting option.

Then there are the two more unfamiliar names in the lineup, Jeremy Moore and Roman Ali Solis. Moore has made himself better known this spring hitting .353 with 3 doubles, 2 homers, and 3 RBI in 17 PA’s, but he has also shown his flaws, striking out 6 times without walking. He’ll head to Triple-A to try to add more plate discipline and see if he could be a big league option at some point. Solis, meanwhile, is hoping to emerge as the Rays’ third catcher, the backstop they resort to in case of injury to Ryan Hanigan or Jose Molina. Making his first start of the spring, Solis will show the Rays how well he works with pitchers and hopefully catch their eyes in some regard.

Appearing behind Nate Karns will be Mark Lowe, Josh Lueke, Kirby Yates, and Steve Geltz. The latter two are long-shots for the roster despite great stuff, but Lowe and Lueke have big games ahead of them as they hope to prove they are worthy of a spot.

The game will start at 1:05 PM and as available on MLB.com Gameday Audio. Enjoy the game, and come back to Rays Colored Glasses later for the recap.