LEE COUNTY, FL – Don’t tell anyone in either dugout that spring training games mean nothing. In fact, if you ask Rays manager, Kevin Cash, he sees it as quite the contrary.
“There’s good energy throughout camp,” Cash said before Friday night’s Grapefruit League opener against the Minnesota Twins from Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. “Games starting which adds another element to spring training.”
Friday night’s game was a warm one for late-February but nonetheless, there weren’t many clouds in the sky and all in all it was a beautiful night for baseball.
On the mound to open spring play for the 20th season for the Rays was RHP Austin Pruitt. The Twins would counter with RHP Kyle Gibson.
Tim Beckham, playing shortstop, led off the game with a double on just the second pitch from Gibson. The Rays led all of the Grapefruit League in doubles in 2016. Daniel Robertson, Brad Miller, and Corey Dickerson would all be retired in order to follow, leaving the Rays early run-scoring opportunity aboard.
The Rays cracked the scoreboard first in the top of the third inning after a triple by Beckham and a single by Robertson for the first run and RBI of the spring for Tampa Bay.
Austin Pruitt would be pulled for Diego Moreno to start the Twins half of the third after pitching a solid two innings of shutout, three strikeout ball to start his spring. The tandem of Moreno and Jacob Faria would pitch back to back shutout innings in the third and fourth to hold the Rays lead at 1-0.
Faria would continue to dominate through a second complete inning of work finishing his night with three strikeouts and allowing just one hit before making way for flamethrower, Ryne Stanek. In a single inning of relief, Stanek would flirt with triple digits on the radar gun and work around a hit and a walk but not allow any runners across the plate. The 2013 first-round pick has hit as high as 103 on the gun in camp this year.
Three more arms would come in and only Jeff Walters would give up the shutout in the ninth inning but secure the save for the Rays in their Grapefruit League opener. Jose Alvarado and Hunter Wood also got work in before Walters came in for the save opportunity.
All in all, the Rays offense looked impressive in the first game action of the spring. Beckham finished with a 2-for-2 evening including a double, triple, and a run scored while Pruitt’s first outing of the spring was also something to build on along with the rest of the Rays impressive pitching performances.
Saturday, the Rays open their home slate of exhibition games welcoming in the Pittsburgh Pirates to Charlotte Sports Park for a 1:05 first pitch.
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