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Rays to go with 'pen for 3rd game of season

Cash puts Eovaldi in rotation but wants to manage his workload
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays manager Kevin Cash announced the rotation to start the season following Thursday's 8-1 loss to the Twins at Charlotte Sports Park.

As expected, Chris Archer will lead it off, pitching the opener against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Blake Snell will pitch Game 2, then the Rays will employ a bullpen day in their third game against the Red Sox. Nathan Eovaldi, who is returning after two Tommy John surgeries, will start Game 4 against the Red Sox, and he'll be followed by Jake Faria, who will start the fifth game of the season against the Yankees in New York.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays manager Kevin Cash announced the rotation to start the season following Thursday's 8-1 loss to the Twins at Charlotte Sports Park.

As expected, Chris Archer will lead it off, pitching the opener against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Blake Snell will pitch Game 2, then the Rays will employ a bullpen day in their third game against the Red Sox. Nathan Eovaldi, who is returning after two Tommy John surgeries, will start Game 4 against the Red Sox, and he'll be followed by Jake Faria, who will start the fifth game of the season against the Yankees in New York.

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Video: TB@MIN: Snell strikes out Polanco for first of spring

The Rays announced earlier in the spring they intended to use four starters in their rotation, and that they would use "bullpen days" -- where they will have a combined effort by the bullpen, to serve as the team's fifth starter. However, Cash's announcement about such a measure in the third game of the season came as a surprise. He explained the move.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"The reasoning behind the bullpen day on Game 3, it just allows us with all the off-days, [to manage] specifically Nate's workload coming out of the gate," Cash said.

Eovaldi, who missed the entire 2017 season, called Thursday's official news "part of the goal."

"Come back from the surgery and be healthy and help out this starting rotation," Eovaldi said. "Go out there and compete every day and give the team a good chance to win."

Injury update
Brad Miller (broken right pinky toe) played first base in a Minor League game against the Twins' Triple-A affiliate on Thursday and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

"All good signs, [Miller] came out of it really well," Cash said.

Thursday morning, Miller laughed when a reporter asked if he thought he'd be ready for Opening Day.

"Yes, we've got two weeks," Miller said. "Carlos Gomez got here like three days ago. We'll be OK. Seriously ... I'd rather play than not play. The next couple of weeks just getting my at-bats, getting back on the field, I'll be ready to go."

Cash echoed Miller's sentiments, telling reporters he believes Miller will be ready to go by Opening Day.

"We can ramp up the at-bats, so I'm confident in that," said Cash. "... He's not going to get to the 50 at-bat mark, where a lot of guys will. But I think he'll get enough at-bats, and his timing in order, enough to where he can be ready for Opening Day."

Miller will not play Friday.

Mallex Smith (sore right hamstring) tested his leg in drills on Thursday.

Video: TB@BOS: Smith chops a two-run double to left field

"Mallex, had a good day," Cash said. "He'll test himself a little bit more. He just shagged and took batting practice today. Pushed himself a little bit more. We'll look for Mallex to get after it on Saturday and test his legs out a little bit."

Smith is expected to be ready to play on Opening Day.

Camp battles
Joey Wendle continues to look like he'll be with the team when it breaks camp. The infield hopeful doubled home the Rays only run on Thursday and is hitting .393 for the spring.

Wendle, who hits left-handed, could find himself in a platoon situation with right-handed hitting Daniel Robertson.

Up next
The Rays travel to Fort Myers on Friday for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Twins. Faria will start for the Rays and hopes to right his ship. The right-hander has struggled this spring going 0-2, with a 16.62 ERA in three starts.

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

Tampa Bay Rays, Nathan Eovaldi, Jake Faria, Blake Snell