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Cash readies relievers for Back-to-Back appearances

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays made their way to Ft, Myers to take on the Boston Red Sox for the second consecutive day. Brad Boxberger, Grant Balfour, Ernesto Frieri, Jordan Norberto, Kirby Yates and Jhan Marinez all took the mound in another bullpen-by-committee game. Tampa Bay ultimately fell short by a 3-2 margin in extra innings, thanks to a one-run, two-out walk-off knock off the Faux Monster in left. They will get another shot at Boston Wednesday afternoon in their final meeting of the spring.

More important than the loss, however, Boxberger, Frieri, Jepsen and Yates will get the opportunity to make appearances in back-to-back games. Rays manager Kevin Cash spoke with Bill Chastain (MLB.com) before the contest, about the importance of having his relievers pitch in back-to-back games:

Just kind of a normal thing. If it works out where we can match up a little bit [in Sunday's game] or [Monday], we'll do that. Some guys will throw a full inning, some two-thirds of an inning, some guys will get four outs depending on how we line it up going forward.
The top relievers who saw time on the hill — Balfour included — posted solid outings. Boxberger got the start and threw an easy, 11 pitch, 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout (looking) of a frustrated Dustin Pedroia. Balfour followed with a scoreless second, working around a two-out walk. Frieri kept the Red Sox at bay by working around a couple of walks in the third, while Yates and Norberto each pitched two innings, with only Norberto allowing a run.

Boxberger described the importance of throwing in back-to-back games in the Rays Radio clip below: Kevin Jepsen also made an appearance Sunday, albeit in a minor league game. The true test will be how well Boxberger, Frieri, Yates and Jepsen perform Monday against the Baltimore Orioles. Can they bounce back and have the same quality stuff as the previous day? Boxberger spoke to some of the challenges a reliever may face in back-to-back outings, including how well the body can recover in a short amount of time:
...And being able to get going again [the next day]. Kind of take it and see how I can recover and being able to do it two or three times during the year and being able to go in April.
Cash noted that Balfour is not scheduled to pitch Monday. Balfour, who missed a significant amount of camp while in Australia, allowed that making back-to-back appearances is nice, though it isn't entirely necessary:
That year in Oakland, I think I had 27 for 27 saves and I didn't go back-to-back [during Spring Training] and I had four [spring] games. So I guess I don't have to do it. ... You don't really have to do it. But I mean it's nice to do it and rebound from it and stuff like that. It's something that you would typically do.

Links

- Boxberger asked to start Sunday because he wanted to face Boston’s top hitters he would likely see during the regular season. I'd say he did well:
- The Rays have released OF Andrew Toles, their 2013 minor-league player of the year. Toles missed two-plus months in 2014 due to personal reasons. This move follows the release of SS Brandon Martin and OF James Harris, two supplemental first-round picks from the 2011 draft.


According to Charlie Wolmoth (for MLB Trade Rumors), former Twins starting pitcher and free agent Scott Diamond threw for the Rays Friday. Wilmoth writes, "The Rays have a number of injuries in their rotation and are known to be hunting for starting pitching depth to stash at Triple-A Durham. Diamond last appeared in the big leagues in 2013. He spent last season pitching at Triple-A Rochester and Louisville, where he posted a combined 6.57 ERA, 4.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 123 1/3 innings."

- Among other candidates, Marc Topkin lists Wandy Rodriguez, Shaun Marcum, Bruce Chen, and Clayton Richard as alternatives.

- When asked about Juan Francisco's April 5 opt-out for his contract, Cash had this to say to Topkin:

"We've got some guys that we signed and we want to do them right and communicate as soon as possible if they're not (going to be) with us and there's opportunity elsewhere," Cash said. "We're not looking to hold anybody back from being in the big leagues with other teams or anything like that."

- Being a huge Rays fan, I don't often see parallels in the way Thomas Ricketts (by way of Theo Epstein) runs the Cubs with that of Stu Sternberg. Who knows, maybe there are an indefinite number similarities that I've turned a blind eye to. Whatever the case, Craig Goldstein (for Vice Sports) wrote an excellent piece on the Chicago Cubs' pending decision to carry Kris Bryant on their 25-man roster to open the Major League Baseball season. The point of contention is one we Rays' fans know all to well: the teams desire to secure an entire extra year of contractual control over Bryant, thanks to service time. There is a glaring difference, however — the Cubs have the ability to open the coffers and pay a player at his market value, whereas smaller market teams like the Rays or Royals seemingly do not. Or maybe every MLB owner has the ability to pay a player what he is worth, and I'm again turning a blind eye.

- The 2015 season preview...in data visualization?

- Balfour is still working on some variations to his pitches, a week ahead of Opening Day.