Rays now ‘highly confident’ Josh Fleming will pitch Sunday vs. Yankees

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ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are now optimistic — though not fully sure — left-hander Josh Fleming will be able to pitch Sunday as scheduled against the Yankees.

Fleming played catch in the outfield Thursday morning to test the left foot that was bruised when struck by a batted ball Tuesday. He reported then, and after additional treatment, that he was feeling better.

“He was very encouraged (Thursday) talking to him during the game, so that makes me very encouraged,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t think we’ll have a final say, but I’m confident that we feel like it’s really trending in the right direction — highly likely that he’ll be available Sunday.”

Fleming said the pain had gone down on Thursday and he was no longer walking with a limp, though the foot was heavily taped. The key remaining issue is how he fares, in terms of discomfort or disruption to his mechanics, when using the foot to push off at the start of his delivery. He is slated to throw off a mound Friday to get a better sense of that.

“It’s one thing doing it on flat ground, but all of the power coming down the mound is going to be a little bit different,” he said. “But I felt good (Thursday), and I think (Friday) is going to be good, too.”

The Rays will be counting on Fleming to work bulk innings Sunday, potentially behind an opener. If he can’t go, and without other internal options, they seem likely to call up Cooper Criswell.

More pitching news

Yonny Chirinos, who has allowed only one earned run in 14 innings over four relief appearances, is set to make his first start in Friday’s series opener. … Starter Tyler Glasnow (oblique strain) is slated to work three innings for Triple-A Durham Friday in Norfolk in the first of two or three planned rehab outings with the potential for a mid- or late-May return. … Reliever Shawn Armstrong (neck discomfort) is progressing toward starting a rehab assignment as well.

Wander’s ball flip a big deal

Wander Franco’s ball flip to himself before throwing to first base during Wednesday’s game attracted a lot of attention, including more than 5 million views of the video posted by the Rays’ social media team. Cash wasn’t surprised: “As soon as I get home, I know my son JD is going to look at me and tell me to go out there and practice that play with him. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do that. ... I can’t relate to the amount of confidence that Wander plays with. It’s pretty special.”

Welcome to Randy Land

Not only will there be a big crowd (with the upper deck open) at Tropicana Field and a festive atmosphere due to Cinco de Mayo, Friday also will mark the official debut of Randy Land after a test run on April 21. Fans buying the $49 tickets for Friday games in section 141 behind where leftfielder Randy Arozarena plays are sure to get attention from him in addition to special T-shirts, the use of fatheads and other fan props, and a free beer, soda or water if he homers. “I’m hoping to hit a home run so that everybody drinks happily,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. ”I’m very happy, and I’m very excited that the team put a section in my name. I’m very excited and very grateful for it.”

Miscellany

The Rays won their 21st straight game when scoring first, surpassing the 1990 Reds’ modern-era (since 1901) record of 20 to start a season. It was their 17th win in 19 games at home, making them the third modern-era team to do so (1951 Yankees, 1972 White Sox) … Arozarena extended his on-base streak to 15 games. … The Rays had their majors-most 12th game with three or homers; they had 13 all of last season. Their 67 homers are second-most for a modern-era team through 32 games; the 200 Cardinals hit 70. … The Rays have launched a @tropicanafield Twitter account that will provide event information, such as fans being urged to arrive early this weekend with gates opening two hours before first pitch and parking lots four hours beforehand.

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