3/15 Rays Recap: Pair of 6-3 Wins as 5th Starter Candidates Impress

By Robbie Knopf

On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays had a split-squad day, their only of the spring. Half the team was at home to take on the Toronto Blue Jays while the other half headed to Bradenton to go up against the Pittsburgh Pirates. With two games happening, the Rays got to see all three of their 5th starter candidates take the mound, and the results were very good overall.

In the home game, Erik Bedard went 4.1 innings allowed 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 2 while walking none. 2 of the runs came on a wind-assisted triple by Kevin Pillar that easily could have been an out under normal circumstances. Bedard showed solid command of his fastball and a few good sliders, but the concern continues to center around his changeup, which he continued to leave up in the zone.

Bedard was supported by a Mikie Mahtook grand slam, an Evan Longoria RBI single, and a Justin Christian sac fly to earn the victory despite the run he allowed. Longoria, Hanigan, and Brandon Guyer both had a pair of hits. The Rays’ 6-3 lead after 4 innings was held up by an outstanding performance by a quarter of Rays relievers. Brandon Gomes showed a dominant cutter as he went 1.2 perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts and then Grant Balfour struck out 1 in a perfect 7th. Joel Peralta followed by working around a walk with a strikeout in his hitless 8th, and then Brad Boxberger made Blue Jays minor leaguers look silly with his changeup as he struck out the side in the 9th. The bullpen wound up being a bigger story than Bedard, but it was solid game all-around as the Rays tasted victory at home. The road game would yield similar results.

The sad part about the Rays’ game against the Pirates is that the biggest news was an injury: Wil Myers left the game after fouling the ball off his right quad. But examination revealed just a bruise, and Myers will return soon. Now back to your regular scheduled programming.

Jake Odorizzi started for the Rays against Pittsburgh and had some control issues, walking 3 in 3.2 innings pitched, but was dominant otherwise. He allowed just 2 hits and 1 run, striking out 2 and forcing a 6-2 groundout to flyout ratio. His fastball command was solid and he showed flashes with his changeup and slider on his way to a nice outing. His spring ERA is a tidy 2.25.

Cesar Ramos followed Odorizzi and went the rest of the game, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 5.1 innings, striking out 2 while walking none. He also got 8 outs on the ground. Ramos allowed a run each in the 5th and 6th innings when the Pirates’ starters will still in the game, but did pitch efficiently once he was dealing with mostly minor leaguers. Overall, it was a decent performance, and it was nice for Ramos to get both the opportunity to enter in the middle of an inning like a reliever and provide length like a starter.

The Rays built up a 4-1 lead after 3 on a Ben Zobrist RBI groundout, a wild pitch, a Cole Figueroa double coupled with an error, and a Matt Joyce single paired with another misplay. At least the rest of their runs were a little more legitimate as Jerry Sands iced the game with a 2-run base hit in the 8th. The Rays had 8 hits from 8 different players, and Joyce also stole a base. This certainly was not a dominant performance, but it was nice to see the two 5th starter candidates do well and the Rays take advantage of the other team’s mistakes to find their way to victory.

It will be a return to normal action on Sunday as David Price starts against the Boston Red Sox at Charlotte Sports Park.