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Wednesday began with plenty of talk regarding the official announcement Tuesday that the Rays would be heading to Cuba on March 20 to face off against the Cuban National Team on March 22. Before the first official spring training game at Charlotte Sports Park, Rays Manager Kevin Cash met with the media and discussed a bit on how he felt about the upcoming trip in a few weeks.
Cash raved about the fan base in Cuba and the level of talent coming from a country proud of it’s baseball heritage.
“You look at the guys that come over and get into the big leagues, it’s an impressive group.” Cash said Wednesday. When asked about an early scouting report on the Cuban team, Cash laughed and admitted nothing had come his way, yet.
“I’m sure we’ll be shifting, though.” He said with a head shake and a chuckle.
Good spirits and excitement for the first pitch of the spring season were evident all over Charlotte Sports Park Wednesday as fans packed in to see the Nationals take on their beloved Rays.
Jake Odorizzi got the start facing Washington righty Tanner Roark. After a perfect three-up-three-down inning in the first, Odorizzi would give way to Andrew Bellatti in the second who would get himself in and out of trouble, loading the bases only to leave unscathed and keep the game scoreless.
In what would prove to be a bit of a sloppy first game of the spring defensively by both teams, Rays catcher Curt Casali would throw the ball past first baseman, James Loney, in the third inning to get a run across for the Nationals and break the scoreless tie. Desmond Jennings would answer right back for the home team with a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the third to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.
“It was great to see Desmond on the field and put a charge into that ball in the gap,” Cash said after the game.
The lead would hold for the Rays until the Nationals non-roster invitee and MLB veteran, Scott Sizemore, crushed a 3-run home run to center field off lefty Blake Snell in the top of the sixth inning. It was the first runs Snell had allowed at Charlotte Sports park since 2014 when he played with the AA affiliate Stonecrabs.
“He left a changeup up,” Cash said about the pitch Sizemore hit out. “But you definitely know why everybody’s excited about him. Effortlessly throws 94-96 MPH and even his misses were with intent and where he wanted to go, just off the plate.”
Taylor Guerrieri would take over in the top of the seventh inning and struggle, allowing another two runs and a 6-2 Nationals lead.
Despite a threat in the bottom of the ninth, the Rays could not bring home another run and dropped their spring opener to the Nationals in Dusty Baker’s Grapefruit League debut as Washington skipper.
“It was good to get out there,” said Cash who was light-hearted and making jokes after the 6-2 loss. “Good energy in the dugout. These games get a little long, obviously, but it was nice to see those guys the first couple innings. Seemed like everything was really crisp.”
The Rays welcome in the Baltimore Orioles Thursday and will send RHP Erasmo Ramirez to the hill to make his first spring start. First pitch is set for 1:05 PM from Charlotte Sports Park.
- Rays will send Drew Smyly to the mound Saturday night against the Orioles and Matt Moore will make his first spring start on Monday against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.
- Injured OF Steven Souza Jr (intercostal strain) hopes to make his spring debut by the middle of next week.
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