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Spring Game 14: Richie Shaffer Homers in Rays’ Blowout Win

By Robbie Knopf
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The end of Wednesday’s game was a little bit too good of an analogy for the Tampa Bay Rays’ recent injury woes. Just in these last few weeks before spring training, the Rays have seen Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Alex Colome go down with injuries. And just one out away from closing out the Rays’ 9-3 win over Toronto Blue Jays, Jhan Marinez allowed a single, a two-run homer, a double, and two walks. Jim Patterson came in and finished the game, but not before allowing a run-scoring wild pitch.

Aside from the bottom of the ninth inning, though, it was all smiles for the Rays in Dunedin. Chris Archer had some control issues as he walked 3 and allowed a wild pitch in 4 innings of work, but he allowed just 1 hit, struck out 3, and forced an impressive 7 groundouts. He threw some nice changeups and best of all, he left the game entirely healthy.

Every reliever before the ninth–Andrew Bellatti, Jeff Beliveau, Jim Miller, and Brandon Gomes–all looked fine, and Gomes looked especially good as he struck out the side in the eighth inning. This game, though, clearly belonged to the Rays’ offense.

David DeJesus got the Rays on the board in the second inning with a two-run single off Mark Buehrle in a left-on-left matchup. Always nice to see DeJesus doing something to raise his trade value. Evan Longoria added to the Rays’ lead with a solo homer in the third inning to make it 3-0, and James Loney added a solo shot off Steve Delabar in the sixth.

In addition, Desmond Jennings (flu) and Brandon Guyer (oblique) returned to the field in this game after missing some time, and both looked very good. Jennings went 2 for 2 with a run scored while Guyer played center and went 1 for 2 with a run scored. Jennings’ sickness was obviously a brief thing (unlike Alex Colome’s), but Guyer’s first game back was quite encouraging. We have every reason to think that he will be ready for Opening Day.

Then, in the later innings, it was some of the youngsters stepping up. Richie Shaffer, who replaced Longoria at third base, drilled a homer of his own in the eighth inning and added an RBI double in the ninth. Shaffer’s time in pro ball has not been as good as hoped since the Rays made him their first round pick in 2012, but he seemed to make a breakthrough towards the middle of 2014, and the Rays are hoping that can continue.

These two hits mean nothing in regards to the Rays’ evaluation of Shaffer, but they hope that they can help his confidence as he prepares for his first season at Triple-A. Shaffer did not earn an invite to the Rays’ big league camp, but he was called up for a day and managed to take advantage. Now he will aim to live up to his potential and earn plenty more chances in the coming years.

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Curt Casali also homered for the Rays while Taylor Motter drilled a ground-rule double. It was nice for Casali to replace his competitor for the backup catcher job, Bobby Wilson, and come up big in his one at-bat. He will need a lot more where that came from to dissuade the Rays from sending him back to Triple-A. Motter, meanwhile, has been an underrated player for a while and is hoping to start changing that. A few more hard hits in big league camp would be a great beginning.

It was great to see Chris Archer and Richie Shaffer among the heroes as the Rays won yet another spring training game. The victory takes them above .500 on the spring at 7-6-1 as they have now won six of their last seven games. There will be a Sun Sports broadcast and a free MLB.com radio broadcast tomorrow as the Rays take on the Minnesota Twins in Port Charlotte at 1:05 PM.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Primed for Repeat of Disastrous 2014 Start?

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