The game between the Rays and the Minnesota Twins may have been rained out Saturday afternoon, but that didn't preclude the team from preparing for opening day on March 28.
Blake Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, was scheduled to pitch Saturday, and although he didn't have had the opportunity to face the Twins, he had an excellent work in the cage, according to Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays manager.
"It's actually a little bit of a learning experience for us," said Cash. "We put an emphasis on the intensity, Kyle (Snyder, Rays pitching coach) was able to stand right there. I didn't have a gun on him (Snell) but we could tell with our eyes he was letting it go. Hitters hit off of him, so it was good."
Snell was happy with his workout Saturday, and feels he's where he needs to be as far as his progress, if not ahead of it, coming into the 2019 season. He threw 54 pitches Saturday.
"Everything felt good, I was very happy with everything," said Snell. "I went into the cages for three and two-thirds innings. I was in the zone, attacked the zone...the first thing was being there and then when I went to the cages, I didn't lose anything. Every pitch I threw at every batter, I was very happy with. It looked really good and really sharp. I'm very excited with where I'm at... my fastball was jumping. My offspeed was where I wanted it to be if not better."
The rain out didn't seem to affect Snell, recognizing that during the early part of the season, adjustments will have to be made, as the weather's unpredictability will alter the schedule.
"When we go to Chicago and San Fran, it's going to happen," said Snell. "We'll be in a delay or something. For that to happen it was cool."
Snell is also happy with the rapport he's built with his new catcher Mike Zunino, acquired this fall in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.
"It felt really easy," said Snell. "We're on the same page."
Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos also got their work in, despite the inclement weather, and Yarbrough's workout was key because he's missed some time this spring, said Cash, about the right-handed pitcher who finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting and won 16 games in 2018.
Former Stone Crab Nate Lowe, whose power and tape measure blasts this spring are still resonating with the organization, was reassigned to minor league camp. Lowe who was hitting .356 in the Florida State League at the time of his promotion to Montgomery in 2018, hit .330 overall last year between the three different levels he played at, finishing the year with 27 home runs and 102 runs batted in. Lowe will open the season with the Rays Triple-A team, the Durham Bulls.
"He made a good impression," said Cash. "I told him, he's the one who's going to ultimately drive the decision. He came on so strong last year. He did some good things, and obviously we saw enough of the power to appreciate how far he could hit a baseball. I asked him to go down there and continue his work, and value the defense just as much as he does the offense. We know once guys get up here, it's really important."
Colin Poche, who will pitch today against the Red Sox, was also among the roster cuts Saturday, but gave an honest assessment of his performance this spring, said Cash.
"He scuffled early on with the strike throwing, the command, threw some pitches in sequences that maybe he wouldn't," said Cash. "Talking to him, he took it as a learning experience. That's going to happen at the big league level at some point. If it happens in spring training and you learn from it, you're better equipped when the opportunity comes at the big league level during the season, we're probably better for it. He left a really good impression."
Former Cleveland Indian left-hander Ryan Merritt will start today against the Red Sox, but like Lowe and Poche will also start the season at Durham.
"We'll stretch him out, and he'll be in that bulk innings mix," said Cash.
The Rays reduced their roster by nine, with the number of players in major league camp now standing at 40.
Pitcher Austin Pruitt was optioned to Durham. Pitchers Mike Franco, Ryan Merritt, Colin Poche, Ricardo Pinto, Luis Santos, catcher Anthony Bemboom and infielders Michael Brosseau and Nate Lowe were reassigned to minor league camp.