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Rays new slugger Tsutsugo crushes first homer

@juanctoribio
February 24, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Yoshitomo Tsutsugo understands that Spring Training stats don’t count, but the Japanese slugger felt good about hitting his first home run of the spring in just his second game. “I’ve been practicing with the coaches and we’ve been working on things every day,” Tsutsugo said, through

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Yoshitomo Tsutsugo understands that Spring Training stats don’t count, but the Japanese slugger felt good about hitting his first home run of the spring in just his second game.

“I’ve been practicing with the coaches and we’ve been working on things every day,” Tsutsugo said, through team translator Louis Chao. “I was happy that I put a good swing on that pitch.”

Tsutsugo jumped on a 2-0 fastball off Red Sox left-hander Jeffrey Springs in the fourth inning, sending it into the deck in left-center field. Tsutsugo was responsible for the first run for Tampa Bay against Boston in a 2-2 tie on Monday at Charlotte Sports Park.

“We all say that it’s tough to go up against left-handed pitchers for lefties,” Tsutsugo said. “So I was happy to be able to hit one against a lefty.”

Through his first two games of the spring, Tsutsugo has yet to be retired. He is 2-for-2 with a single and a home run, and he has also drawn two walks in his four plate appearances.

“We’re not going to weigh too much into anything. I think we’re all really happy with the presence that he has when he walks up to the plate and the discipline that he has to lay off tight pitches,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He’s been pitched pretty tight, but he’s not going off the plate trying to expand with the pitcher. That’s the most encouraging thing.”

Tsutsugo will be off Tuesday, but he is scheduled to return to the lineup on Wednesday and will play third base for the first time.

Chirinos’ sharp in outing
Yonny Chirinos dropped 15 pounds over the offseason, and he made his first Grapefruit League start on Monday. The right-hander allowed one run in his lone inning, but he struck out three in the outing.

“I feel good,” Chirinos said. “I lost some good pounds, and I feel good physically. All I’m looking for is feeling comfortable out on the mound, and thankfully that’s how I’m feeling right now.”

Chirinos will get a chance to earn a full-time starting role. He said his preference is to start games, as opposed to following an opener, but he is willing to fill to any role that the team asks.

Meadows scratched from lineup
Austin Meadows was a late scratch to the lineup, but it wasn’t injury-related. Due to brushfires in the area, the Rays outfielder had to drive and evacuate his Spring Training home near Rotonda West. Rays infielder Brandon Lowe also resides in the area.

Both Meadows and Lowe were in the clubhouse before the conclusion of Monday’s game and both said everything and everyone was OK.

Grapefruit League notes
Manuel Margot got the start in left field for Meadows and went 2-for-2 with a double. The outfielder will continue to get work in the corner outfield throughout the season. Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake and Aaron Loup all tossed scoreless innings in their first outing of the spring.

“Everything felt better today,” Anderson said. “That’s kind of one of the things where I’ve been throwing and it’s just not coming out [as good as planned] but today it felt good. Curveball was better, too. That’s just the result of getting everything clicking.

“Yeah. Everything felt better today. Velo felt better. That’s kind of one of the things where I’ve been throwing and it’s just not coming out, but today it felt good. Curveball was better, too. That’s just result of getting everything clicking.”

Up next
Charlie Morton will make his first Grapefruit League start on Tuesday against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Morton is expected to pitch an inning in the outing. Other pitchers scheduled to pitch include Chaz Roe, Jalen Beeks, Trevor Richards and Pete Fairbanks.

The full lineup behind Morton:

Brandon Lowe, 2B
Manuel Margot, LF
Nate Lowe, DH
José Martínez, 1B
Dylan Cozens, RF
Mike Zunino, C
Daniel Robertson, SS
Ryan LaMarre, LF
Mike Brosseau, 3B

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.