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Eovaldi stays sharp on comeback trail

Righty returning from 2nd Tommy John has had near spotless spring
Special to MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Rays starter Nathan Eovaldi had another strong outing as he tries to become just the 12th pitcher in Major League history to start a big league game after two Tommy John surgeries.

Eovaldi allowed one earned run on four hits in three-plus innings in a 5-3 victory against the host Phillies at Spectrum Field on Saturday. The hard-throwing right-hander, whose fastball topped out at 99 mph, struck out three and walked none. Eovaldi gave up singles to Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera in the bottom of the first inning. After allowing just two baserunners combined over his first two starts, Eovaldi was actually happy to get to work out of the stretch.

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Rays starter Nathan Eovaldi had another strong outing as he tries to become just the 12th pitcher in Major League history to start a big league game after two Tommy John surgeries.

Eovaldi allowed one earned run on four hits in three-plus innings in a 5-3 victory against the host Phillies at Spectrum Field on Saturday. The hard-throwing right-hander, whose fastball topped out at 99 mph, struck out three and walked none. Eovaldi gave up singles to Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera in the bottom of the first inning. After allowing just two baserunners combined over his first two starts, Eovaldi was actually happy to get to work out of the stretch.

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"It was definitely nice, because I got to work with runners at first, second and third. I was able to work out of jams and continue to battle out there," Eovaldi said.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Herrera led off the fourth with a single against Eovaldi. Rhys Hoskins doubled into the left-center gap to put men on second and third with no outs, which ended Eovaldi's work for the afternoon. Yonny Chirinos came on in relief, but he allowed one of the inherited runners to score. It was the first run of the spring charged to Eovaldi.

"Overall, I was pleased," Eovaldi said. "Unfortunately I gave up the run. That happens. We'll just continue to build on it."

Rays manager Kevin Cash has been trying to limit Eovaldi's workload this spring after he missed all of 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

"We've probably tried to hold [Eovaldi] back from going out that extra inning, knowing that he has done everything in this offseason," Cash said. "He pretty much goes 100 percent with everything he does. In the weight room, PFPs, definitely in the bullpen.

"You probably can't control what he's going to do when he gets on the mound, because he's going to let it loose, for sure. But to limit him a little bit is beneficial."

Video: TB@PHI: Olmedo-Barrera hits second homer of the day

David who?
Minor League outfielder David Olmedo-Barrera went from unknown to unstoppable on Saturday. After being a late addition from Minors camp to the team's travel roster, the 23-year-old had two homers -- including the game-winner in the top of the ninth -- while driving in four runs in the come-from-behind win.

"I guess we'll have him back over here [on the Major League side] now," Cash joked. "He's had some good at-bats when he is over here, so he's earned the opportunity to get called back over."

Position battles
Lefty Jose Alvarado, who is trying to secure a spot in the Rays' expanded bullpen, tossed a perfect seventh. It was his fifth straight scoreless outing this spring, and he has allowed just one hit in five innings.

Alvarado is part of a group that also includes Ryan Yarbrough, Anthony Banda and Adam Kolarek, all of whom are battling for the final one, or possibly two, bullpen spots available. Cash, who announced earlier this week that he will go with a four-man rotation to start the season, has been taking an extra look at the young left-handers.

"This spring, we've seen a different mix in overall staff," Cash said. "We've got guys that can really put the ball on the ground, we still have guys that can strike guys out and we've got the lefties ... that can offset a lineup a little earlier than in the past."

Daniel Robertson, who is competing for the super utility role but could win the second-base job outright with a strong spring, got the start at second and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.

Roster moves
Infielders Nick Solak -- who was acquired in the three-way deal that sent Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona -- and Jake Cronenworth were re-assigned to Minor League camp following Saturday's game.

Up next
The Rays will return home to Port Charlotte on Sunday to host the Twins at 1:05 p.m. ET. Righty Jake Faria, who's given up four runs on five hits, three walks and a hit batter in 2 2/3 innings this spring, will make his third start. Yarbrough, Banda, Alex Colome and Hunter Wood are also scheduled to pitch. Catch the game live on MLB.TV and Gameday Audio.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays, Nathan Eovaldi