After hitting two home runs against the Orioles in the Rays’ 8-3 win on Monday afternoon at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., Willy Adames tried to remember the last time he went deep twice in one game. His best guess was right: It was at Double-A Montgomery. Adames' only career two-homer performance came on May 18, 2016.
“Hey, I don’t have that kind of pop,” Adames said, laughing.
Well, maybe he’s realizing that he can.
Adames has hit four home runs this spring, all in the five games he has played since Wednesday. He has shown power before, obviously, having hit 20 homers over 152 games in 2019 and eight in 54 games last season. But the swings Adames has taken lately stand out, especially in light of his offseason work with hitting consultant Lorenzo Garmendia.
“He’s swung the bat well,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Sometimes when you make some of these swing changes or adjustments that he’s trying to make, it just takes time. You can do all the work behind the scenes, but until you start getting in that rep of seeing live pitching, competing in the box, it doesn’t always click for everybody. But maybe this is a sign of Willy starting to click. He’s timed up.
“That’s huge for us. If we can get Willy doing what he did basically in the first half or most of the season last year, that’ll be a big add to our offense.”
Indeed, Adames was a force offensively for the Rays for the first two-thirds of the shortened 60-game season. In his first 36 games, the shortstop slashed .322/.398/.585. He struggled after that, hitting just .149 in his final 18 games, then batting .136 in the postseason. That slump prompted Adames’ tireless work over the winter, which has him feeling good heading into Opening Day on Thursday in Miami.
“I'm just happy that all that work we put in is going to the field now in the games. It's translated from the cage to the field, and all that makes me feel really good about the work that we put in in the offseason,” Adames said. “Hopefully I can just do it through the season and stay the same way all year.”
Hill, Archer ready for Saturday
Rich Hill threw 63 pitches in five innings against the Orioles on Monday, and Chris Archer threw 75 pitches over five innings in an intrasquad game at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. While both veterans are stretched out to start, they will share their first turn through the rotation.
Hill will start Tampa Bay’s third game of the season on Saturday at Marlins Park. Archer is also scheduled to pitch in that game, essentially making it a tandem start in much the same way Hill and Archer did on March 19. Cash said the two will likely be separated the next turn through the rotation, with Archer expected to start during the Rays’ first homestand that begins April 9 against the Yankees.
“We're thrilled where Arch is, and whatever workload he takes on in Game 3 will help him,” Cash said.
Hill was pleased with his outing against Baltimore. The left-hander allowed three runs on five hits -- including two solo homers -- and two walks, but he struck out four and induced three double plays to make it an efficient start. Hill filled up the strike zone, saw his fastball velocity tick up and forced the Orioles to swing and miss on his curveball.
“The ball came out of my hand the way I wanted it to, so I feel really good about it,” Hill said. “It's been a progression throughout Spring Training, and I think we've definitely got to the point where I want to get to, the point where I want to be, so it was good.”
Yoshi goes deep
Yoshi Tsutsugo led off the game with his first Spring Training home run off Orioles lefty Bruce Zimmermann. It was another encouraging sign for Tsutsugo, who figures to see a lot of playing time at first base to begin the season, and he could find himself atop the lineup quite a bit as well.
Cash said the Rays like Tsutsugo’s patience at the plate -- his 14.1 percent walk rate last season ranked second on the team behind Yandy Díaz (16.7 percent) -- and believe he’s bound to bounce back after a somewhat disappointing debut. Tsutsugo had just one hit in his first nine Spring Training games, but since then, he has gone 7-for-20 with one double and one homer.
“We're being optimistic and kind of bullish on where he'll be offensively,” Cash said. “We feel like he could do some good things and get on base for us and have a lot of good at-bats.”
First baseman Ji-Man Choi (right knee inflammation) hit what Cash called a “little bit of a roadblock” in his rehabilitation. After ramping up his workouts to include on-field baseball activities, Choi again felt soreness in his knee.
Cash said Choi was scheduled to consult with a doctor on Monday to get more information about how to proceed. Choi was already expected to begin the season on the injured list, although this latest development could set back the timetable for his return even further.
Outfielder Brett Phillips (strained left hamstring) is working hard in the trainer’s room and is making progress, Cash said, but he’s still “a ways out” from getting back on the field.
The Rays will wrap up their Grapefruit League schedule against the Tigers on Tuesday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla. Right-hander Michael Wacha, who is scheduled to pitch in the fourth game of the season, will take the mound after opener Cody Reed. Both Reed and Wacha have enjoyed excellent springs, further cementing their important roles in Tampa Bay’s pitching staff. The game is scheduled to last seven innings. First pitch is set for 12:35 p.m. ET.