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PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays pitcher Chris Archer had reasons to be pleased with his outing Wednesday, and his reaction on the mound and those of his teammates in the dugout made it clear.
In his longest spring outing, Archer worked into the fourth inning of Wednesday’s 7-6 win over the A-list Twins. He allowed one hit — albeit a home run — and one walk, striking out two while throwing 51 pitches, including 31 strikes, calling it “a big step forward.”
It was how Archer did so that mattered, increasing his fastball velocity to 95 mph, getting sharp break on his slider and making effective — and extensive — use of his change-up, the elusive the third pitch he has been trying to master.
“My change-up was garbage early, but (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) continued to tell me, ‘Hey, trust it, trust it. Remember what we’ve worked on.’ And I just kept throwing it,” Archer said.
“Changed my focus a little bit, continued to throw it and got some really, really good results, especially when (Max) Kepler came up his second time and then I got (Josh) Donaldson to roll over on it. ... It was nice to use the breaking ball when I needed to,but not have to lean on that so much.”
Archer, who re-signed with the Rays after missing last season with Pittsburgh following thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, said he has no concerns about being ready to open the season next week. The Rays seem to be planning on a limited workload, potentially in the four-five inning/90-pitch range.
First things first
Yoshi Tsutsugo hit leadoff Wednesday and is likely to do so at least to start the season, when he will be playing regularly against right-handers as the replacement for injured first baseman Ji-Man Choi.
Given Tsutsugo’s rough 2020 debut in the majors, manager Kevin Cash said the Rays may break from some of their usual lineup shuffling, as they have other options for the top spot, including Austin Meadows.
“We’re sensitive to a guy like Yoshi; it’s important for him to get off to a good start and find some comfort,” Cash said. “If we can give him some stability, even though we don’t do many things like that throughout the course of the season, but if we can give him a spot and see if he can run with it, why not try it out in the early going?”
Game details: Rays 7, Twins 6
Brandon Lowe dropped a bunt to beat the shift for a second time this spring and said it definitely will be a weapon during the season. Cash said several of the Rays’ lefty hitters will do so. … Outfielder Manuel Margot sparked the first two rallies, increasing his spring average to .393 (11-for-28). … Infielders Joey Wendle and Willy Adames hit their first spring homers. … Though Nick Anderson had issues, key relievers Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks looked sharp, as did bullpen candidates Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Thompson. … Third baseman Yandy Diaz, again using a bright yellow glove, and Tsustugo both made several good plays for the Rays (8-14).
• Cash said outfielder Randy Arozarena is “fine” but out of the lineup for a reason: “He’s just got some hand, forearm, everything tightness, soreness” from swinging too much, Cash said. “He likes to hit. So the only way to prevent him from hitting is to tell him that he’s not allowed to go in the cage and not play him.”
• Rays coaches teamed up on Cash by wearing T-shirts honoring his manager of the year award and gave one to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. The former Rays coach and good Cash friend posed for a photo being predictably unimpressed.
• Rays Insiders members will have access to single-game tickets in a Thursday presale before sales to the general public that start Friday at 10 a.m.. Tickets for the first 15 home games through May 2 are available, with a capacity of about 9,000. Season members had access to buy this week.
• Cash said all was good with centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, his wife Marisa and their new son, Krew Jax, who arrived Tuesday, a couple days ahead of schedule.
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