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Eovaldi perfect in long-awaited Rays debut

Righty fans 2 in 1 1/3 innings; Schultz not worried about velocity dip; Duffy scratched with back tightness
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Nathan Eovaldi started for the Rays in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Orioles, and the right-hander came away feeling just fine.

"I definitely felt good out there," said Eovaldi, whose first pitch of the game registered at 98 mph."Threw all of my pitches. Curveball, slider, [changeup]."

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Nathan Eovaldi started for the Rays in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Orioles, and the right-hander came away feeling just fine.

"I definitely felt good out there," said Eovaldi, whose first pitch of the game registered at 98 mph."Threw all of my pitches. Curveball, slider, [changeup]."

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The Rays signed Eovaldi as a free agent on Feb. 14, 2017, motivated by their reputation for handling pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery. At the time, Eovaldi was coming back from his second such surgery. He achieved his goal of being physically ready to return by the end of the 2017 season, prompting the Rays to exercise his 2018 option.

Eovaldi said his fastball command "felt really good" and he allowed that he felt a little amped up Monday night in anticipation of Tuesday's outing that saw him work 1 1/3 innings and throw 14 pitches, 11 of which were strikes. He struck out two batters.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I was definitely excited for today," Eovaldi said. "Then I just treated it like my regular start routine. That calmed me down a lot."

Eovaldi is penciled in as part of the four-man roation the Rays plan to use the first month of the season.

Schultz velo down:
Bullpen hopeful Jaime Schultz took the loss against the Twins on Sunday when he allowed a run on two hits in an inning of work. During that outing, the hard-throwing right-hander only hit 92-94 mph. Rays manager Kevin Cash said his velocity was not a concern.

"We've asked Jaime to pace himself," Cash said. "Nobody thought he'd come out pumping 96 or 97. I think the most encouraging thing about his work was when [bullpen coach] Stan [Boroski] said he let a couple go in the bullpen, let a couple of curveballs go in the bullpen. It was really, really encouraging."

Schultz struggled with injuries in 2017, prompting him to have knee and groin surgeries during the offseason. He didn't seem to be too worried about where he finds himself at this juncture of Spring Training.

"I'm just kind of finding it right now," Schultz said. "I don't think 92-94 is down. It's the first day of spring after two surgeries. We have a whole other month to go."

Underdog role
Cash allowed that he likes the underdog role in which the Rays have been cast this season.

"I think it's great, I love the media bashing us, the national media," Cash said. "Yes, it's perfect. But the expectations are not any lower from my point of view, or the players, who have taken the time to sit down and think about what's gone on. Yes, there have been subtractions, but there's also been some really good additions."

Worth noting
Kevin Kiermaier has been seeing some DH action during the early part of Spring Training.

"As much as he goes there's not a ton of thought going into that, just getting him his at-bats and keeping him off his feet if we can a little bit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I think next week he'll start playing some center again."

Brad Miller has been limited a little by a broken big toe.

"Just making sure when he gets back from the toe, he's good to go," Cash said. "... He'll take it day to day. Stay off his feet. See where he is tomorrow."

• Looking to add more versatility to the roster -- particularly with a right-handed hitter -- the Rays will use Daniel Robertson in the outfield on Wednesday.

"I'm actually pretty confident that Robby, with enough reps, can be pretty good out there," Cash said. "The least thing we're worried about is the arm and how that plays. That's not a factor. It's how he's tracking fly balls, the jumps, and reads out there."

Carlos Gomez continues to have visa issues, so he's not yet in Rays camp.

Camp battles
Dustin McGowan made his second appearance of the spring, and the veteran posted his second scoreless inning. The Rays signed the right-hander to a Minor League deal with an invite to Major League Spring Training. He's hoping to earn a spot in the Rays' bullpen, but there is a lot of competition in camp.

McGowan went 8-2 with a 4.74 ERA in 63 games, all in relief, for the Marlins in 2017. He is 35-34 with a 4.50 ERA in 290 appearances in 10 MLB seasons with the Blue Jays, Phillies and Marlins.

Injury updates
Brent Honeywell had successful Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews, Tuesday in Pensacola.

• Third baseman Matt Duffy experienced "back tightness" and was scratched from Tuesday's lineup shortly before the Rays played the Orioles. Cash said he could have played if it was the regular season. He's listed as day to day.

Up next
The Rays will travel to Fort Myers to play the Twins on Wednesday in a 1:05 p.m. ET game. Ryan Yarbrough will get the start and will be followed by Yonny Chirinos, Vidal Nuno, Chaz Roe, and Jose Mujica. The game will be broadcast live on Gameday Audio.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Nathan Eovaldi, Kevin Kiermaier, Brad Miller, Jaime Schultz