The Rays used the long ball, hitting six home runs Sunday afternoon, for a decisive victory against the 2018 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, winning 8-1.
The formidable power display by the Rays offense was generated by left fielder Gil Heredia, who would homer twice, designated hitter Mike Zuninio, second baseman Joey Wendle, first baseman Nate Lowe and what Rays manager Kevin Cash referred to as the most impressive shot a blast to left-center field over the palmetto’s by right fielder Avisail Garcia, with the ball’s departure from the Charlotte Sports Park being mercurial. As soon as Garcia’s bat made contact with the ball, the opposition remained nearly motionless, recognizing there would be no play on such a soundly hit ball.
“The other team didn’t seem to react too quickly to it,” said Wendle of Garcia’s home run. “That was really far...it was fun to be on deck for it. He hits them all the time to the opposite field in batting practice.”
Garcia’s home run’s estimated velocity was 111 mph and traveled 464 feet at a 35 degree launch angle, according to TrackMan data. Nate Lowe crushed another Heculean clout, with his home run resonating with the spring’s first sell out crowd, with 6,983 people in attendance. The Rays were an offensive juggernaut, hammering out 15 hits against their American League East rivals.
“That ball was hit a long way,” said Kevin Cash, Rays manager in reference to Garcia’s home run.
Garcia, an all-star with the White Sox in 2017, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after last season. Chad Mottola, the Rays hitting coach has seen encouraging signs from the outfielder in the cage, said Cash.
“I think there were some things last year that his body wouldn’t allow him to do, with the knee in particular, and now he’s getting that strength back, where he’s got a good foundation. Whatever it is, it looks good.”
Garcia said he was feeling great, and had worked hard to get back to his all-star form.
“My knee’s healthy, so that’s the most important thing,” said Garcia. “It was hard in the offseason trying to rehab, trying to get better every single day. To come in like this, to feel like this, and how I feel right now is amazing. Thank God for that.”
Heredia’s first shot was off a first pitch offering from Hector Velazquez, also to left field.
Wendle, who finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting, this past fall, seemed to be in mid-season form, with a home run to right field in the second inning off of the 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.
“(My swing) is still coming along, I feel like I’m in a fine place for right now,” said Wendle. “There’s still a couple of things I’d like be doing better. I think everybody would at this point in spring.”
However, the Rays pitchers were equally as sharp, limiting the opposition to only six hits.
“It was a good day, a well-pitched game, it was nice to see a lot of the big bullpen arms get active out there and throw the ball really well,” said Cash.
Headed out to the farmThe Rays reduced their roster to 49 Sunday, optioning catcher Nick Ciuffo, infielder Andrew Velazquez and pitchers Andrew Moore and Jake Faria to Triple-A Durham.
The following players were reassigned to their minor league camp, pitchers Ian Gardeck and Tyler Cloyd and infielders Nick Solak and Jake Cronenworth