The Tampa Bay Rays lost their Grapefruit League opener against the Boston Red Sox. Here are some key takeaways.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher, Trevor Richards had a daunting task in the first inning facing Red Sox regulars, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez, and Michael Chavis to begin the game.
Trevor Richards is an outside (albeit unlikely) candidate to earn a spot at the back end of the rotation. He comes into camp with 48 career regular-season starts in his two seasons. Richards gave up a single on the first pitch to Benintendi then struck Bradley out on a 3-2 count. Martinez came to the plate with a runner on second and ripped a hard ground out to Daniel Robertson at short. He stranded Benintendi at second by striking Chavis out with a high fastball.
Richards got away with a couple of mistakes down the middle, but he did a nice job working his trademark fastball-changeup combinations to keep hitters off balance. Both of his strikeouts were with a full count.
Lowe Plays Third
Nate Lowe entered camp 20 pounds lighter in an attempt to earn more time at third base. If Lowe can prove to be an effective defender at the hot corner, his defensive versatility would go a long way in earning him a roster spot. We know about his immense power, but being able to effectively man the hot corner would give the Rays more incentive to keep Lowe around.
Lowe worked a walk in his first at-bat and earned a single.
Jalen Beeks worked an efficient second inning. The lefty pounded the strike zone, throwing only two balls and ten total pitches.
Peter Fairbanks began the third with two unlucky hits, one off his own glove and the other a bloop single just out of the reach of Robertson’s outstretched glove at short. Despite having two runners with no outs and now facing the top of the lineup, Fairbanks was able to escape the inning unscathed. He drew a fly out from Benintendi and struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. He walked J.D. Martinez to load the bases and struck out Chavis to get out of the jam.
Fairbanks’ fastball had life to it, J.D. Martinez and Michael Chavis both appeared to have a really hard time catching up to his high-heat.
After getting two quick outs to begin the bottom of the fifth, Joey Ryan gave up two hits, two walks, one earned run and was credited with the loss. In fairness to Ryan, a runner advanced on a ball that made its way between Kevan Smith’s legs and then scored on the next pitch when Margot came from left field to call off Daniel Robertson at shortstop. The ball landed on the infield dirt and a run scored. The next hit was a bloop “bleeder” down the right-field line.
Kevan Smith is battling for a roster spot as a backup catcher. He worked a good game behind the plate with pitchers consistently getting in and out of innings in under 20 pitches, for the most part. He threw a bullet to second on a Benintendi steal, but Robertson pulled for the tag before he had the ball. Smith also grounded into a double play in the fifth.
Randy Arozerana had the only extra-base hit in the game for the Rays.
Manuel Margot struck out twice and called off shortstop Daniel Robertson on a flyball that landed on the infield dirt. With Margot’s range and the short left field at jetBlue Park, Margot showed off his range on one hand but made a bad decision in attempting to play left/shortstop.
As mentioned earlier, Nate Lowe had a smooth single to right field in the fifth inning, ending the day one for one with a walk and a single. Despite losing 20 pounds this offseason, Lowe still weighs 225 pounds.
The Rays play the Red Sox again at 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24.