2015 represents a major crossroads in the career of Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee. He is coming off a disastrous season at Triple-A Durham and needs to make a move to work his way back into the Rays’ plans. A game can’t accomplish that and an entire spring training may not be able to either, but Lee certainly caught people’s eyes as he led the Rays to a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon.
It all began in the bottom of the first inning, when Lee showcased the part of his game he is most known for: his defense. With two on and one out, Torii Hunter singled to shallow left field, but Lee made an outstanding throw to catch Brian Dozier attempting to score on the play. Kevin Cash called it “one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.” However, we knew that Lee could field–the better question is his bat. Luckily Lee had some answers in that regard as well.
In the third inning, Lee doubled over the head of centerfielder Jordan Schafer. Then, in the seventh frame, he hit a line drive that just barely made it over the wall in right field for a go-ahead two-run home run. Lee has never hit for much power, but he has made an effort to bulk up and change that. One blast can only mean so much, but the homer certainly put an exclamation point on Lee’s great game.
In other news, Jake Odorizzi could have gone as long as three innings in the game but wound up departing after two. In his time on the mound, he allowed 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2. He said after the game that he was working on his third pitch, a slider/cutter, before bringing out his changeup to force some groundballs in his second frame.
Andrew Bellatti came in for a scoreless relief inning before Brad Boxberger, Jeff Beliveau, and Jose Dominguez followed suit. Boxberger forced three groundouts in a perfect frame while Beliveau did a nice job rebounding from his rough spring debut. Steve Geltz came in for the seventh inning and struck out one, but he also allowed a home run. He’d settle down and finish the inning with the Rays’ 3-2 lead intact.
Rays reliever Robert Zarate came in for the eighth inning and proceeded to shut down the Twins for the rest of the game. He went 2 shutout innings working around 2 hits while striking out 3. He touched 94 MPH with his fastball to go along with a good breaking ball as he is emerging as one of the sleepers in camp. The Rays added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth to make it 5-2 game, and that would also be the final score.
The Rays’ offense has been rather quiet in spring training with the exception of Corey Brown. Brown went 1 for 2 today and is hitting a very nice .455 so far this spring. Aside from the aforementioned Hak-Ju Lee, other heroes included Boog Powell and Juan Francisco, who each went 2 for 2. 2012 first round pick Richie Shaffer also had a strong game, going 1 for 2 with a walk and an RBI.
With the win today, the Rays improve to 2-5-1 in the Grapefruit League. Their pitching has been great throughout, but hopefully they can find the consistent offense necessary to sustain a winning streak. The Rays will take on the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:05 PM in Port Charlotte tomorrow and a free broadcast will be available at RaysBaseball.com.