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Smyly looks sharp in season debut vs. Blue Jays

Lefty retires first 10 batters in return to rotation

ST. PETERSBURG -- After being sidelined since early March with shoulder tendinitis, Drew Smyly made his first start of the season a good one in the Rays' 12-3 win over the Blue Jays Friday night at Tropicana Field.

Facing a Blue Jays lineup heavily stacked with right-handed hitters, Smyly retired the first 10 batters he faced, notching all five of his strikeouts. He struck out Josh Donaldson on a 93-mph fastball to end the first, then fanned Edwin Encarnacion on a cutter and Danny Valencia on a curveball for the first two outs of the second before adding two more K's in the third.

Smyly ran into trouble in the fourth, however, surrendering a home run to Toronto rookie second baseman Devon Travis and a run-scoring single to third baseman Valencia. Despite needing to record one more out to be eligible for the win, he was lifted by manager Kevin Cash in favor of Jose Dominguez, with the Rays leading, 4-2.

"It felt great to be out there. Couldn't really ask for more," said Smyly, who threw 55 of his 79 pitches for strikes and allowed four hits. "My arm felt good, my pitches were pretty good. Good team win so it was a great first game, to have me and [James] Loney back."

Smyly's departure came as the result of an 80-pitch limit implemented by Cash and Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey prior to the game.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed," said Smyly of his falling one out short of a victory. "That's baseball. I had a predetermined pitch count. I guess it was 80 but I didn't know that, going in. It stinks that it landed with one out to go in the fifth."

Cash conceded that the decision to pull his lefty was difficult but necessary, given the big-picture thinking the Rays employ when managing their pitching staff.

"Extremely unfortunate that Drew's pitch count got to that very difficult decision-making zone, and that's on me, but we've got to prioritize his health over his record at this point," said Cash after the game.

"I apologized to him, but that was the plan that we had in place and we wanted to stick to it."

Michael Kollligan is a contributor to
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