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ST Game 1 Preview: Nate Karns Aims To Start Rays Spring Training in Style

By Robbie Knopf
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When the Tampa Bay Rays’ spring training season begins, Nate Karns will be the pitcher on the mound. He will be hoping not only to start the Rays’ exhibition season on a strong note, but also gain the early advantage in the team’s fifth starter competition. Alex Colome is not even in the US yet because of visa problems, and Karns’ goal will be give him a lot of catching up to do when he does arrive.

Karns’ 5.08 ERA at Triple-A Durham last season was far form ideal, but it can’t diminish his stuff. Armed with a fastball that averaged 93.89 MPH during his big league time and an impressive breaking ball, Karns certainly has the foundation to be an effective starting pitcher for the Rays. His goal this spring will be to prove that his changeup and overall command are good enough for him to deserve an opportunity now.

Here is the full Rays lineup for their spring opener against the Baltimore Orioles today at 1:05 PM.

1. Tim Beckham, 2B
2. John Jaso, DH
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. James Loney, 1B
6. David DeJesus, LF
7. Brandon Guyer, RF
8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
9. Curt Casali, C

Starting Pitcher: Nate Karns

Glancing at this lineup, Beckham will another player hoping to start off with a bang and the Rays will bat him lineup in their first spring contest. The Jaso-Cabrera-Longora-Loney grouping, meanwhile, could be something we see during the regular season, and it is nice Kevin Cash getting there right from the start. The player the Rays may care about the most in the lineup, though, may be David DeJesus, who will look to raise his trade value with a strong spring.

The defensive alignment is also interesting as the Rays chose to put Beckham at second base and Cabrera at shortstop. While it is more likely that we see the opposite during the regular season, the Rays will be evaluating Beckham, Cabrera, and Nick Franklin at both spots all spring. Shortstop is still Cabrera’s natural position, and he won’t give it up without a fight.

Also set to appear in this game are Kevin Jepsen, Brad Boxberger, Steve Geltz, Enny Romero, C.J. Riefenhauser, Robert Zarate, and Jhan Marinez in relief plus Ryan Brett, Hak-Ju Lee, Luke Maile, and Mikie Mahtook off the bench. It will be exciting to see Jepsen appear for the first time in a Rays uniform, and having him and Boxberger back-to-back in some order should be a common sight for the Rays during the regular season.

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There will be a lot of pitchers capable of reaching the mid-90’s in this game for the Rays between Karns, Jepsen, Boxberger, Geltz, Romero, and even Marinez. Not everyone may be throwing as hard as they will be once the regular season begins, but they will still hope to elicit plenty of swings-and-misses from Orioles hitters. A big question will be whether all of them–particularly Karns, Geltz, Romero, and Marinez–will be able to throw hard and still know where their offerings are going.

Finally, having Brett, Lee, Maile, and Mahtook after the starters depart will make this game worth watching–or at least listening to–the whole way through. Speaking of listening, the game is available with a Rays commentary for MLB.com Gameday Audio subscribers. After the contest, we will have our first Rays recap of 2015 up a couple of hours after the game concludes featuring all of the results and nuanced analysis that you could possibly ask for.

Next: John Jaso's Outfield Progress the Last Straw for David DeJesus

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