After impressive Spring Breakout, Isaac makes Grapefruit debut

March 17th, 2024

BRADENTON, Fla. -- had a good enough time on the field Saturday. The Rays’ No. 4 prospect crushed two homers and a double during the inaugural Spring Breakout game against a team of Twins prospects at Hammond Stadium, showing off his immense power potential heading into his second full professional season.

It got even better in a hurry.

Just after the game ended, Rays assistant director of coaching and player development Alejandro Freire approached Isaac and asked the first baseman how his banged-up left ankle was feeling. Isaac told him it felt great. Then came some more good news heading into a scheduled off-day at Minor League Spring Training.

“[Freire] was like, 'All right, good, you're playing tomorrow,’” Isaac said. “I was like, 'All right, bet. Don't [have to] tell me twice.'”

So there was Isaac on Sunday afternoon, starting as the Rays’ designated hitter in his first big league Spring Training game, an 8-4 loss to the Pirates at LECOM Park. Isaac finished 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts, but it was a special experience regardless of the results.

“I'm pumped. Great to see the guys. Just great to be here, honestly,” he said before the game. “I mean, it's probably one of my best weekends ever. … It’s my first big league [Spring Training] game, so I just want to enjoy it and have fun.”

Isaac said his phone was “blowing up a lot” after his standout Spring Breakout performance. He certainly made an impression on Rays manager Kevin Cash, who watched the highlights from the game.

“Wow, that was impressive,” Cash said. “I mean, for him to hit balls 110 mph the other way as a 20-year-old? You just don't see many guys that have the capabilities to do that.”

Cash also lauded Isaac for the work he’s done off the field. Isaac specified Sunday that he went from 275 pounds in 2022 to 240 pounds now, a dramatic change sparked by how he felt after his brief professional debut two years ago. He wants to play as often as possible, and he knows he can’t do that if his body can’t handle the grind of a long season.

“I know I can do it. I know I can hit the baseball. It’s just, can I play every day?” Isaac said. “I knew going into my [first] offseason, I need to go work on my body.”

Game notes

• Shortstop José Caballero made a handful of slick plays in the field, highlighted by a spinning scoop and throw to retire Andrew McCutchen in the fourth inning.

“I've been very impressed with his defense all spring long,” Cash said. “We knew he was a rangy player at second, at third. It's translated really, really well at shortstop as well.”

• Non-roster right-hander Edwin Uceta got the start, struck out five without a walk, permitting one run on three hits over three innings and threw 27 of his 40 pitches for strikes. The Rays have been intrigued by a spike in his velocity, even as he has been built up to handle three innings at a time. He could be further stretched out into a depth starter, Cash said.

• Closer Pete Fairbanks worked an 11-pitch fourth inning, recording three groundouts around a two-out double. Lefty Colin Poche gave up one run on three hits, but struck out two in a 31-pitch fifth. Most of the Pirates’ damage came against non-roster righties Burch Smith and Erasmo Ramírez over the final three innings.

• Brandon Lowe launched his second home run of the spring out to right field against right-hander Chase Anderson in the sixth inning.

Camp notes

• Projected Opening Day starter Zach Eflin threw five simulated innings at Charlotte Sports Park, increasing his pitch count into the 75-80 range.

• Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who signed a Minor League contract on Friday, faced hitters for three innings at Charlotte Sports Park. He was initially expected to have one back-field outing before pitching in two games to determine his potential readiness for Opening Day.

• Right-hander Shane Baz threw live batting practice on Saturday, a step in the right direction after a brief setback due to a minor oblique injury. Baz is being brought along slowly this spring in his return from Tommy John surgery. Cash said the Rays were still working to determine his next step, but they hope to get him into a game before Spring Training ends, if possible.

Up next

Right-hander Chris Devenski will start for the Rays as they return to Charlotte Sports Park on Monday afternoon to host the Braves. Relievers Jason Adam, Phil Maton and Manuel Rodríguez are also expected to pitch for Tampa Bay, while lefty Max Fried will take the mound for Atlanta.

First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET. The game will air on Bally Sports Sun and MLB.TV, with a Rays Radio free webcast available on