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Snell gets first Opening Day assignment

Morton continues scoreless spring; Choi keeps impressing
@juanctoribio
March 6, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- It wasn’t much of a surprise, but Rays manager Kevin Cash announced Wednesday that reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell will take the mound on Opening Day against the Astros. Snell, who struggled Tuesday in his start against the University of South Florida,

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- It wasn’t much of a surprise, but Rays manager Kevin Cash announced Wednesday that reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell will take the mound on Opening Day against the Astros.

Snell, who struggled Tuesday in his start against the University of South Florida, was accountable in his bad outing, saying he was “disappointed” with the way he approached the start.

“You always want players to be accountable, positive and negative,” Cash said. “Blake showed that a lot last year so I’m not surprised by that. Obviously it didn’t go the way that he wanted to.”

Cash said that the bad outing from Snell isn’t something the team is concerned about.

“March 28 is the first day?” Cash asked. “He’ll be pitching that day.”

Snell went 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA and 221 strikeouts in his 31 starts last season, leading the Major Leagues in wins and the AL in ERA. He was a first-time All-Star and, in addition to winning the Cy Young, finished ninth in the voting for AL Most Valuable Player.

The Opening Day nod is the first for the 26-year-old Snell. Chris Archer, who was dealt to Pittsburgh at last year’s Trade Deadline, was Tampa Bay’s Opening Day starter each of the past four seasons.

Morton’s scoreless outing

Charlie Morton pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the Rays' 9-6 loss against the Orioles on Wednesday. Heading into his second Grapefruit League start, the plan was for Morton to get into the third inning, which he was able to accomplish.

Morton struck out two in the outing, but also hit consecutive batters in the first inning. He threw 39 pitches, 25 of them going for strikes.

“I try not to look at the results,” Morton said about his second outing of the spring. “I look more on how I’m feeling, how the ball is moving, how the ball is coming out. It’s the second outing of Spring Training, so I try not to over-evaluate it.”

Morton has made both of his starts against the Orioles, but the right-hander said he doesn’t have a problem with facing a division opponent twice during the spring. His next start is likely to be on Monday against Bryce Harper and the Phillies.

Choi’s big day

Ji-Man Choi went 2-for-3 Wednesday against the Orioles, raising his spring OPS to .885. The Rays know how well Choi can handle the bat, but the 27-year-old is showing the team that he can be a solid defensive first baseman.

“Really appreciate the way he’s gone about it,” Cash said. “We have fun with him a lot and he has fun back, but he’s worked really hard and it’s nice to see. He’s been really, really good defensively.”

Injury updates

Ryan Yarbrough, who exited last Thursday’s game against the Twins with groin tightness, is getting closer to getting back on the mound. Cash said there is “no concern” with Yarbrough and that the left-hander was expected to get some work done either Wednesday or Thursday.

Cash said Matt Duffy is scheduled to do some running and is getting closer to a return, but there’s still no timetable.

As for outfielder Joe McCarthy, Cash said the team has shut down the 25-year-old with a similar back issue that limited him in 2018. McCarthy had tests done in St. Petersburg, but everything came back clear.

“Joe had the back issue last year and it kind of flared up,” Cash said. “He was fine, but after his last game played he came in and said that he was feeling similar symptoms to what he had when he got shut down in the Minor League season last year.”

Up next

Tyler Glasnow makes his third start of the spring as the Rays take on the Blue Jays on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. ET in Port Charlotte, Fla. Jalen Beeks, Wilmer Font, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Casey Sadler are all scheduled to pitch for the Rays.

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