Glasnow's new slider on point; roster moves

March 22nd, 2021

Rays right-hander took another step toward his Opening Day start on Monday, working six innings in an intrasquad game at Charlotte Sports Park.

Glasnow said he threw 85 pitches, used everything in his arsenal and felt good in the outing against his teammates on a back field. It was more of an informal setting, with Glasnow facing hitters under the watch of pitching coach Kyle Snyder, pitch-tracking technology and high-speed cameras. The 27-year-old is scheduled to take the mound one more time on Saturday before starting Tampa Bay's season opener against Miami on April 1 at Marlins Park.

"He was outstanding," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Had a very, very good outing. Kyle was very pleased with the fastball, the slider and the changeup. The curveball was fine, but he mixed in all of them. The velo on the slider seemed to separate a little bit from the curveball, which was very good. I think he got his slider in that low-90 [mph] territory, which, even saying that, it just shows the type of stuff that he is equipped with."

Glasnow left Monday's outing with an encouraging report on his new slider. The idea behind the recently developed offering was to make it a horizontally breaking pitch that sits at a velocity between his fastball and curveball, but it occasionally blended in with his curve in some outings this spring. The slider was still effective, especially in a dominant start against the Braves, but Glasnow and Snyder set out to refine it.

After slightly tweaking his grip over the past few days, Glasnow felt he's altered the shape of the slider in a good way. Rather than coming in between 85-89 mph and resembling his curveball, the pitch clocked in between 88-92 mph with more horizontal movement on Monday.

"Today was by far the best day my slider's been -- like, by a million," Glasnow said. "So I'm super comfortable with it. … And it was just easier to throw for strikes, too. Just like a little shift, pretty easy, so I'm encouraged by it."

The only thing Glasnow didn't prepare for, much to his chagrin, was hitting. He'll be in the batting order on Opening Day, as the Rays will be playing without a designated hitter under National League rules, and he's been relentlessly asking Cash this spring to let him hit in a game.

A few days ago, Cash said, Glasnow took some swings in the batting cages, and according to hitting coach Chad Mottola, the veteran righty hit a ball 108 mph off the tee. Glasnow then texted his manager on Sunday night, asking if he could get an at-bat during Monday's intrasquad game.

"It's not going to happen, but we can let him keep dreaming," Cash said. "He texted me, and I texted him back: 'Wrong number.'"

Roster moves
The Rays reassigned seven players to Minor League camp on Monday morning: catcher Chris Betts, infielder Esteban Quiroz, outfielder Nathan Lukes, left-hander Brian Moran and right-handers Yacksel Rios, Hunter Strickland and Louis Head.

The latest round of cuts left Tampa Bay with 46 active players on the Spring Training roster 10 days before Opening Day, although those players can and likely will continue to appear in Grapefruit League games.

Moran, Rios and Strickland are relievers with Major League experience who were brought in on Minor League deals. Moran pitched well in four Grapefruit League outings, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out four, while Rios and Strickland struggled. Rios allowed eight runs on 11 hits, including three homers, in 4 1/3 innings. Strickland surrendered seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and five walks with only two strikeouts in six innings. Head, who had a 2.08 ERA in five spring outings, worked a perfect ninth inning in the Rays' 10-4 loss to the Red Sox on Monday afternoon.

"I think it's pretty cool that the stance that the organization takes, year in and year out, is that there's really just not a ton of weight put on Spring Training results," Cash said. "It's more, 'What can we do to help you better? Are you comprehending, understanding the messages, whether it's offensively or on the pitching side from Kyle and [bullpen coach] Stan [Boroski]?' And Hunter did that.

"So, just re-upping those messages and letting them know that this organization has shown in the past that those types of players that come in and sign, a lot of times there's opportunity and they end up massively contributing at different points in the season."

Up next
The Rays will head north on Tuesday afternoon to play the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. Right-hander Collin McHugh, a versatile veteran swingman, is scheduled to pitch for the Rays after multi-inning righty Trevor Richards makes the start. Left-hander Jeffrey Springs and non-roster reliever Andrew Kittredge are also scheduled to take the mound. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET, and fans can catch the action on MLB.TV and MLB Audio.