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Rays Spring Game 5: Nate Karns Faces Big Test Versus Yankees

By Robbie Knopf

Much has changed since Nate Karns started the Tampa Bay Rays first spring training game last Thursday. Drew Smyly‘s timetable has been delayed by shoulder bursitis, making Karns a virtual lock for the Rays’ rotation. However, is that going to put the Rays in a tough position? Is Karns simply going to be a placeholder until more qualified pitchers are ready?

Today, Nate Karns is going to take on the New York Yankees’ starting lineup. While it doesn’t incite nearly as fear as it would have a few years ago, this represents an opportunity for Karns to make a statement. Is he the pitcher who posted a 5.08 ERA at Triple-A last year or the one the Rays gave up Jose Lobaton and two prospects to acquire? Is he the guy who delivered a dominant Rays debut last September or the one who struggled mightily in his second start?

It has been nothing but bad news thus far this spring training for the Rays between the injuries to Smyly and Brandon Guyer and Alex Colome‘s visa issues. The team needs some reason to be excited, and Karns will hope to provide that today. Here is the Rays’ starting lineup.

1. Nick Franklin, SS
2. Desmond Jennings, LF
3. James Loney, 1B
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Steven Souza, RF
6. Kevin Kiermaier, DH
7. Alexi Casilla, 2B
8. Bobby Wilson, C
9. Mikie Mahtook, CF

Starting Pitcher: Nate Karns

It is nice to see Franklin back in the lineup after his brief injury concerns. Neither he nor Tim Beckham has showed much for the Rays so far this spring, and the team is hoping that will soon change. While spring training results can only mean so much, the Rays certainly weren’t expecting for Jake Elmore to be the shortstop talked about most often so far in camp.

It is always funny to see Kevin Kiermaier at DH, and the over-under for the amount of times he will start there during the regular season is 1. (I’ll take the under.) However, the Rays know just how good of a defender he is and it will be nice to see Mahtook get a chance to show what he can do.

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Slated to appear in relief are Ernesto Frieri, Brandon Gomes, Kirby Yates, Jordan Norberto, and C.J. Riefenhauser. Everyone but Norberto is a realistic bullpen candidate, and even Norberto could be in the mix before the season is through. The guy to watch for now, though, remains Frieri, who hopes to become Jim Hickey‘s next successful comeback story.

The game will start at 1:05 PM, but it may be difficult to watch. It will be on the YES Network and accessible only for fans in the Tri-State Area or with MLB.TV. There will be no radio broadcast. However, it’s a Monday and most of us are at school or work anyway. We will be having full coverage of the game here at Rays Colored Glasses, and you’ll be able to hear plenty about the game within a few hours of its conclusion.

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