Jake Elmore has looked good defensively this spring at a variety of positions, but his case to make the Tampa Bay Rays was missing one big thing: offense. He finally starting filling that gap on Sunday in the Rays’ 3-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox in 10 innings.
The Rays had another bullpen day, their second in their last three official games, and their established pitchers all did relatively well. Brad Boxberger, Grant Balfour, and Ernesto Frieri tossed scoreless innings, and Kirby Yates delivered to more shutout frames later in the game. Unfortunately for the Rays, Jordan Norberto, Jhan Marinez, and Jake Thompson allowed run each, and that was enough to send them to defeat.
On the offensive side, the Rays’ RBIs came from Evan Longoria and Rene Rivera. Longoria is hitting .293 this spring, which is always nice to see. In the multi-hit column were both Jake Elmore and Kevin Kiermaier. Elmore went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk, with both hits coming off lefty Brian Johnson. Kiermaier, meanwhile, went 2 for 3 with a run scored, with one of the hits coming off the same-side pitcher Johnson.
If Jake Elmore is going to find a spot on the Rays, it is going to be as a 25th man who can play anywhere and receive the occasional start against left-handed pitching. There is no reason to think that he can be serviceable against righties, but he looked decently enough versus southpaws for the Houston Astros in 2013 and is hoping to prove that he can continue that.
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If the Rays put Elmore on their roster, it would be because they see a player capable of contributing in the field, on the basepaths, and just enough at the plate. We can be dubious about the last of part between Elmore’s track record and his .115 batting average this spring, but he has drawn 7 walks against 2 strikeouts and played better against lefties. He has hit them to a .222/.417/.333 line, and while the sample is super tiny (12 plate appearances), his 3 walks against no strikeouts is pretty shiny.
Of course, how many at-bats will be available for Elmore has a lot to do with how Kiermaier hits lefties. His minor league numbers are quite encouraging against them, and given his defense, he really does not have to hit much to receive a lot of starts. Same-side pitchers gave Kiermaier a lot of trouble in his rookie season, but the Rays will give him a chance to make adjustments in his second year.
The Rays, who are now 11-11-1 this spring, will take on the Baltimore Orioles tomorrow at 1:05 PM in Port Charlotte. The game will be broadcast for free on RaysBaseball.com.