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Rays Spring Game 11: Nate Karns Tosses 4 Perfect IP

By Robbie Knopf

Nate Karns has now made three outings versus zero for Alex Colome. At least in terms of his results, his latest start was his best yet. Karns tossed 4 perfect innings as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-2.

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Of course, spring training statistics can only mean so much. Even though Karns retired all 12 batters he faced–2 via the strikeout and 5 more from groundouts–he still had some clear flaws. We’ll start with the positives: his curveball was sharp, leading to a few whiffs, and he did a good job locating his fastball for the most part. On the negative side, his changeup was quite poor, staying up in the zone nearly every time he threw it, and he had a few egregious misses with his fastball that led to hard contact.

It seems to be the reality that Nate Karns will make at least a couple of starts to begin the year for the Rays, and they could certainly do worse. His fastball-curveball combination is outstanding, and he has the ability to dominate on any given day. However, this game also demonstrated the concerns surrounding his changeup and command that led to his inconsistency at Triple-A Durham last season.

Behind Karns, Jose Dominguez worked around a walk with 2 strikeouts in a scoreless inning, but Steve Geltz and Robert Zarate allowed a run each in their frames. Dominguez showed off his usual electric fastball while complementing it with a solid slider. Then Jhan Marinez worked around a pair of baserunners to keep the Rays’ 3-2 lead before C.J. Riefenhauser struck out 2 in a perfect ninth for the save.

Speaking of that lead, it started with a two-run home run by Rene Rivera off Tim Berry in the fourth inning. Rivera was excellent at hitting lefty pitching last year for the San Diego Padres, and it was great to see him connect against the lefty Berry in this game. The Rays are hoping for more such fireworks from him this season. Rivera also had a single in the sixth inning to cap his day.

Kevin Kiermaier drove in the Rays’ other run on a ground-rule double in the sixth. Nick Franklin also had a ground-rule double (off a lefty, against whom he has struggled), and both Kiermaier and he also stole a base each. It was the first steal of the spring for both of them, but the Rays are expecting them to be modest basestealing threats during the regular season. John Jaso also had a strong game, going 2 for 3 with a pair of runs scored as he made his second start in left field.

The win improves the Rays to 4-6-1 this spring, and they will take on the New York Mets at 1:05 PM tomorrow. The game will be broadcast on 620 WDAE.

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