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Rays Spring Game 28: Nate Karns Prompts Optimism for Regular Season

By Robbie Knopf

We know that Nate Karns is capable of pitching like he did on Thursday in any given outing. When his fastball command is on and his curveball is breaking sharply, he can deliver outstanding performances. The question, of course, is whether he can do so consistently. Karns’ outing against the Philadelphia Phillies certainly doesn’t address that second point, but it does remind us exactly why the Rays aren’t scared as they insert him into their rotation.

Chris Archer started for the Rays in a short tune-up outing before he takes the mound on Opening Day in four days. He pitched well, going 2 innings allowing no runs on a hit, striking out 2 while walking none. Then Nate Karns came in and got the Rays through nearly the rest of the game. He went 6 innings allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 8 while walking 2. Karns began the game with a 4.67 ERA this spring, but finished it with a more respectable 3.86 mark.

Karns is lined up to start five days from now against the Baltimore Orioles, and the Rays are cautiously optimistic about how he will perform. His fastball command remains an issue–his one run in the game came on another home run–but he can be unhittable when it’s on and he has also made some progress with his changeup. The Rays see a pitcher capable of being a capable back-of-the-rotation starter and quite possibly a lot more.

On the offensive side, Tim Beckham had a huge game, going 3 for 3 with a double, a stolen base, and 2 runs scored. He is 6 for his last 10 overall as he has raised his average from .175 to .260. It is also especially impressive that Beckham is turning it on at this point in the spring, when many of the less experienced pitchers have already been demoted to minor league camp.

There were plenty more highlights at the plate, including Logan Forsythe‘s 2-for-2 day with a double and 2 runs scored, David DeJesus‘ 3-run homer, 2-run triples by both Kevin Kiermaier and young Tyler Goeddel, and then Leonardo Reginatto‘s solo shot on the first pitch he saw from Jonathan Papelbon.

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Reginatto has never been much of a prospect for the Rays, but there is just something about him in clutch situations. He stepped up for the Hudson Valley Renegades in the 2012 New-York Penn postseason to help lead them to a championship, he held his own against much more experienced players in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers for Brazil, and now this. We will have to see if he hits well enough the rest of the time to keep getting chances in these dramatic moments.

The Rays’ 10-1 victory in this game improves them to 14-12-2 this spring. They will take on the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland at 1:05 PM tomorrow, and it will be the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day.

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