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Smyly continues dominant spring in Rays 5-1 win over Pirates

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Sitting inside the media work room Thursday morning, karaoke could be heard through the walls as the Tampa Bay Rays rookies were in the midst of a competitive karaoke contest. Everything from Taylor Swift to 3 Doors Down, from Otis Redding to Pearl Jam, the Rays rookies were putting on a rather – interesting competition that was eventually won by catcher Luke Maile who’s winning song was Pearl Jam’s “Daughter.” Despite his win, Maile was quick to give praise to fellow rookies Taylor Motter, who sang Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Richie Shaffer. Though he couldn’t recall the name of Shaffer’s tune, Maile said he was really good and that the degree of difficulty was highest from his song choice.

Manager, Kevin Cash, chuckled when asked if he participated at all in the competition.

“No, no I didn’t, but it was great entertainment.”

Getting down to the business at hand, the Rays welcomed in the Pittsburgh Pirates to Charlotte Sports Park Thursday with a few familiar faces in the visitors clubhouse. Matt Joyce, who was brought in as a non-roster invitee, was all smiles despite his uncertain situation with the Pirates.

“This game can really beat you up sometimes,” Joyce said speaking with some of the Rays media Thursday. “I took away a lot of failure (in Anaheim).”

Joyce, who thought he was going to San Diego before getting the call from the Pirates, also spoke very highly of the Rays Gold Glove centerfielder, Kevin Kiermaier.

“You hate playing against him,” Joyce said. “But he’s a great guy and a awesome teammate.”

Kiermaier smiled when told of his former teammate’s glowing comments of him.

“He was such a fierce competitor here,” said Kiermaier, who was teammates with Joyce in 2014. “We all thought he was too hard on himself. He helped me out a lot and he’s a good friend of mine.”

Joyce, and another former Ray, Sean Rodriguez, both got the start in right and left field respectively on Thursday.

Lefty Drew Smyly got his second start of the spring after pitching a perfect two innings back on March 5th against the Orioles. On Thursday, Smyly would continue to dominate pitching 3.1 innings giving up just two hits and striking out three with no walks. He would depart in the fourth with a 2-0 lead after Desmond Jennings got the Rays an early lead in the third with a two-run bomb over the left field wall, his first home run of the spring and team-leading sixth and seventh RBIs.

“I’m excited about what’s going on,” Jennings said. “I won’t downplay that part. It’s Spring Training and I’m just trying to keep it rolling.”

Smyly was pretty satisfied with his second spring start. The 3.1 innings are the longest by a Rays starter so far.

“I feel great, my arm feels great,” the lefty said with a tightly-wrapped shoulder in the clubhouse. “I’m just trying to get my work in, keep competing, and just have fun.”

Logan Forsythe would add to his own solid spring with three more hits in the game Thursday, including a double to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Three batters later, Corey Dickerson, drove home pinch-runner Thomas Coyle with two outs to extend the Rays lead, 3-0.

Entering play Thursday, the Rays were 2nd in the Grapefruit League in batting average at .287 and helped improve on that with another double-digit day in the hit column.

Prospect Cameron Seitzer added a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the seventh to make it a 5-0 lead for Tampa Bay.

The shutout was snapped via a solo home run off the bat of Michael Suchy in the top of the eighth off Rays reliever Adam Wilk but that would be all the offense the Pirates could muster off Rays pitching. Tampa would go on to win with a 5-1 final in the first game of a home-and-home as they travel to Bradenton Friday to face these same Pirates.

After the game, Cash was glowing over his starter, Smyly’s performance.

“Smyly was really, really good today,” Cash said. “It’s exciting to envision him healthy and what he’s capable of doing, kinda anchoring a big part of our staff.”

2016 will be Smyly’s fifth in the Majors. A surprising fact, one Cash was totally oblivious to before today, was that he had never made an Opening Day rotation.

“Yeah, I didn’t know that,” Cash said surprised. “He’s on our Opening Day rotation so let’s hope he remains healthy. We’re thrilled with where he’s at right now.”

Friday’s starter, Jake Odorizzi, will be making his third of the spring. He is coming off a start against the Twins back on March 6th where he went 1.1 innings giving up just a hit and four unearned runs while struggling a bit with his command, walking three in the short outing.

First pitch Friday from Bradenton is scheduled for 1:05 PM.

NOTES:

  • 1B/OF Steve Pearce is day to day with a calf injury.
  • Since 2008, Rays are 4th in MLB w a .550 win percentage in exhibition games.
  • 4 former Rays are on the Pirates Grapefruit League roster: OF Matt Joyce (non-roster), UTIL Sean Rodriguez, and INF Cole Figueroa (non-roster) and INF John Jaso.

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