SPRING TRAINING: Rays nearly perfect, Cut For A Cure, WBC roundup; preview of today’s game

By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports

PORT CHARLOTTE — Prior to Sunday’s game was the Rays’ sixth-annual Cut For a Cure campaign where players, coaches and front office staff shave their heads in supports of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

The Rays raised $16,350 with 20 fans and 35 players/coaches/staff participating by having their heads trimmed by kids with cancer.

“It’s a special day,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I’ll donate, but I won’t be shaving. I’m starting to get thin up here, man. I have to be careful. It’s good support from the players and the staff. It’s a fun, charitable event that we’re proud to be part of.”

Among others, president of baseball operations Matt Silverman had his hair shaved by 5-year-old Cooper Vollmer. Right-hander Chase Whitley got his hair cut by 8-year-old Joshua Fisher, who also trimmed second baseman Brad Miller’s beard. Infielder Daniel Robertson got a new hairdoo from 3-year-old Avalynn Luciano.

“It’s really cool seeing the kids’ smiles,” said pitcher Ryan Garton, who also participated in the event. “They’ve been through a lot. Being able to put a smile on those faces, you could do anything for that. I’m happy to be able to do that for those kids and it makes me feel a lot better during the day.”

WBC ROUNDUP
Chris Archer learned Sunday morning that he won’t be used by Team USA in the semifinals or final of the World Baseball Classic.

With the Dominican Republic eliminated Saturday night, relievers Alex Colome and Jumbo Diaz will be returning to camp most likely later today. Diaz was acquired by Tampa Bay while he was playing in the WBC, so they have yet to see him in in a Rays’ uniform.

Jose Alvarado, who was with Venezuela, also will be returning to camp in the coming days, and according to Cash, will be optioned down to Minor League camp. Jake Odorizzi was on the list of possible players who could be used for Team USA, but his number won’t be called.

Still out there in the WBC for the Rays is starting pitcher Jose De Leon. He joined Puerto Rico last week, and tossed three scoreless innings against Venezuela. De Leon allowed just three hits and had five strike outs.

SCRATCHED
Evan Longoria was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with neck stiffness, according to the Rays.

KIERMAIER DEAL
The Rays announced late Saturday night they will be holding a press conference today to make an announcement.

That announcement is more or less guaranteed to be about Kevin Kiermaier’s new contract. Reports have it as a six-year, $53.5 million deal. Look for more information on Tuesday.

RAYS 8, PHILLIES 0

HITTER OF THE GAME
Steven Souza Jr., Rays:
He went 2-for-3 at the palte with a ground-rule double and a single. He came around to score after his second-inning two-bagger, and accounted for the game-winner. Souza also later scored a second run in the seventh inning.

PITCHER OF THE GAME
Jerad Eichhoff, Phillies:
Overshadowed by what a group of Rays were doing on the mound, Eickhoff had a very strong six-inning stint. The right-hander allowed two runs on three hits, but had nine strikeouts in the loss.

KEY INNING
First 7.1 innings:
Four Rays pitchers combined for a perfect game all the way into the eighth inning. The Phillies sent 22 batters to the plate before a double by Tommy Joseph broke the streak with Danny Farquhar on the mound. Justin Marks tossed three perfect frames, Tommy Hunter added two more, Xavier Cedeno had one inning, and Farquhar was perfect for four batters before allowing the double.

PROSPECT WATCH
Daniel Robertson, Rays:
Getting the late start after Evan Longoria was scratched prior to the game with a stiff neck, Robertson had a pair of hits, one knocking in a run in the seventh inning.

THEY SAID IT
“I definitely want to see what he looks like.”

— Rays manager Kevin Cash said, with a laugh, of newly-acquired 6-foot-4, 280-pound reliever Jumbo Diaz

PITTSBURGH (14-7-1) at TAMPA BAY (11-9-2)

WHEN: Today, 1:05 p.m.
WHERE: Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte
SCHEDULED STARTERS: LH Blake Snell vs. RH Jameson Taillon
PITCHING PROBABLES
RAYS: LH Blake Snell (start), RH Shawn Tolleson, RH David Carpenter, RH Neil Wagner, RH Diego Moreno, LH Xavier Cedeno.
PIRATES: RH Jameson Taillon (start), RH Edgar Santana, LH Wade LeBlanc

TUESDAY: at Pittsburgh, 1:05 p.m. WEDNESDAY: at Baltimore, 6:05 p.m. THURSDAY:  vs. New York (AL), 1:07 p.m. FRIDAY: at Pittsburgh, 1:05 p.m. SATURDAY: vs. Boston, 1:05 p.m.

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