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Notes: Morton's strong start; Whitley's injury

@juanctoribio
March 2, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Charlie Morton tossed a scoreless inning on 11 pitches against the Orioles last Tuesday, but the veteran right-hander wasn’t too pleased with his first spring outing. On Monday, Morton felt a lot better about his performance, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the Rays’ 3-3 tie with

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Charlie Morton tossed a scoreless inning on 11 pitches against the Orioles last Tuesday, but the veteran right-hander wasn’t too pleased with his first spring outing.

On Monday, Morton felt a lot better about his performance, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the Rays’ 3-3 tie with the O's at Ed Smith Stadium.

“He looked really good; really good,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Really efficient, all the pitches looked good. ... Very crisp outing by him.”

Morton threw just 11 pitches (five for strikes) in his first outing, but he was able to throw 28 pitches (15 for strikes) in his second start against the Orioles. Morton also got to work on his breaking balls, which is something he didn’t get a chance to do in his previous outing. But most importantly, Morton was able to get into the third inning.

“You can start to feel some fatigue there,” Morton said. “Ups and downs are the most challenging because your body has become accustomed to that, kind of, cool down, heat up, cool down, it takes different stresses. I would rather have three ups and downs and throw 30 pitches than two innings and throw 45 [pitches]. I think that’s probably more beneficial.”

Morton said he was particularly happy with how his curveball and his slider/cutter looked during the outing. It’s still March 2, but Morton was pleased with his second start of the spring.

“Didn’t walk anybody, didn’t hit anybody,” Morton said. “All in all, a pretty decent day.”

Whitley hit by foul ball
There was a scary moment in the fourth inning as Rays outfield prospect Garrett Whitley was hit in the face by a foul ball that entered the dugout. Renato Núñez's foul ball bounced on the dirt right before the steps before making direct contact with Whitley’s face.

Whitley was taken inside the clubhouse to be examined, and the team announced that he has a right facial injury and will undergo further testing.

“That was pretty scary,” Cash said. “From the initial test and exam, he was coherent. His eyes were moving fine. ... I know he’s getting X-rays and scans as we speak.”

Perez’s strong start
Michael Perez hit 13 home runs with Triple-A Durham in just 57 games last season, and that power has translated over into the spring. Perez, who is competing for the backup catcher job, says he’s not worried about the competition, and he is just focusing on staying healthy and producing when given opportunities.

“I just keep doing my routine,” Perez said. “I’m just trying to get better every day.”

After dealing with injuries throughout his career, Perez said he worked out at Diesel Fitness in Tampa this offseason and that has helped him heading into the spring. He hopes the new workouts will help him remain healthy in 2020.

“He looks good; he really does,” Cash said. “We want to see him play and put his best foot forward and ultimately stay healthy.”

Grapefruit League notes
Joey Wendle continues to impress in spring camp, going 1-for-3 with a double at the plate, and making a pair of good defensive plays. Brian O’Grady also recorded a hit, while Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run home run, his first of the spring.

Sam McWilliams and Oliver Drake highlighted the relievers on Monday. McWilliams struck out one in one clean inning, and his fastball was recorded around 96-98 mph.

“[McWilliams] continues to do well,” Cash said. “[Pitching coach Kyle Snyder] is excited about him. He thinks with the right messaging and seeing how things go, he can fit in the picture.”

Up next
The Rays will travel to CoolToday Park in North Port to take on the Braves for the second time this spring on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Atlanta beat Tampa Bay, 12-0, in the first matchup on Saturday at Charlotte Sports Park. Rays lefty Josh Fleming is scheduled to make his first start of the spring. Listen on Gameday Audio.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.