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Robertson helps cause in second-base battle

MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Second base is wide open for the Rays, and on Friday afternoon, Daniel Robertson owned the position in a 6-3 split-squad win over the Pirates at Charlotte Sports Park.

Robertson is among a handful of candidates hoping to start at second, and clearly he's one of the best options in the field.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Second base is wide open for the Rays, and on Friday afternoon, Daniel Robertson owned the position in a 6-3 split-squad win over the Pirates at Charlotte Sports Park.

Robertson is among a handful of candidates hoping to start at second, and clearly he's one of the best options in the field.

View Full Game Coverage

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In the third inning, Robertson scooted to his left to backhand Christopher Bostick's hard shot, then threw across his body to nab Bostick at first, robbing him of a single.

One inning later, Robertson ranged far to his left to steal a single from Todd Cunningham before putting an exclamation point on his afternoon as the pivotman on a 6-4-3 double play.

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"He can play some defense, that's for sure," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Robertson arrived at camp 15 pounds lighter than what he played at last season, leaving him hovering around 200-205 pounds.

Cash said the club wanted Robertson to play winter ball because he didn't get that many at-bats last season. But Robertson had different ideas.

"To his credit, he said, 'I've got to get my body back into shape, where I can get some agility back.' He did it," Cash said. "If he would have come in looking the same, there probably would have been some disappointment, because we value those at-bats that he could have gotten at winter ball. But he went in with the motive to trim up, to work on his foot speed, his first-step quickness. And he definitely looks the part."

Robertson, who went 0-for-1 and scored in a four-run third after reaching on a fielder's choice, left the game after getting hit on his hand in his last at-bat. After telling reporters his hand was fine, Robertson noted that he felt good in the field.

"I'm just comfortable out there," Robertson said. "And dropping the baggage, I feel myself moving around. I don't want to say it's easy, but I just feel myself getting to balls. I'm not having to force anything. It's just happening. I just feel athletic."

Miller at first

Brad Miller started at first base against the Pirates, and he looked good in the field and at the plate, going the opposite direction to slap a two-run double off the wall in the third.

"It was good just getting back out there and getting your timing out there as a hitter and just getting onto the field," Miller said.

Miller struggled with injuries in 2017, which was a factor in his fall from 30 home runs in '16 to nine last season. When Miller was asked about how good it must feel to finally be healthy, he smiled and noted that he broke his right big toe recently.

"But everything is good," Miller said.

The Rays are optimistic Miller's fortunes will turn for the best this season. He'll play first and second and also serve as the designated hitter.

Worth noting

• The Rays wore Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School caps in Friday's games. A moment of silence was held prior to the games for the victims of the shooting at the high school.

"It's good for us to honor the victims and obviously the families," Cash said. "I can't imagine what they are going through. If it helps give any recognition to any of those families and that school itself, we're glad to do it."

• The Rays have still not officially announced the signing of outfielder Carlos Gomez, who agreed Wednesday to a one-year, $4 million deal. It's likely he won't report until next week based on him having to get a visa as well as take care of his physical exam.

Kevin Kiermaier hit third in the order against the Pirates. Cash told reporters to not read anything into that decision.

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"It was like picking out of a hat to get him there," Cash said. "He'll hit first. He'll hit second. He'll hit third. We've talked about hitting him fourth. There is no rhyme or reason to any lineup where anybody's playing, I promise."

Kiermaier responded to his assignment with a two-run single in the third.

Alex Colome and Sergio Romo are scheduled to take things at a slower pace this spring based on the workload they expect to shoulder during the season. Colome is expected to throw a live bullpen session on Saturday, and Romo will do the same either Saturday or Sunday.

• Pitching prospect Yonny Chirinos started for the Rays squad that traveled to Sarasota and beat the Orioles, 6-3. That gave the right-hander, who's ranked No. 23 among Rays top prospects according to MLB Pipeline, a chance to try out his newest pitch, the splitter.

"I threw [it] in the game and it's better," Chirinos said. "This year, I have a new grip with more movement, and that's more difficult on hitters."

Video: TB@BAL: Chirinos strikes out Santander swinging

Chirinos allowed just one hit while striking out one in two scoreless innings.

Nathan Lukes had a nice day coming off the bench against the Pirates. He tripled to right-center field, and he caught a fly ball in right and turned it into a 9-6 game-ending double-play.

Up next

The Rays travel to Fort Myers on Saturday to play the Red Sox in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest on MLB Network and MLB.TV. Jake Faria is scheduled to start for the Rays. Also scheduled to pitch are Matt Andriese, Dustin McGowan, Ryan Yarbrough, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Evan Scribner and Jose Mujica. Roenis Elias is scheduled to start for Boston.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Daniel Robertson