Balls were flying out of George M. Steinbrenner Field today, with the Rays emerging victorious. The Yankees offensive output was headlined by a three-run bomb from the Wizard of Oswaldo. Meanwhile, Anthony Volpe continued his quest for a roster spot, and Luis Severino looked good for the most part as he builds towards the start of the regular season.
Severino made his second start of the spring, and the first inning went much more smoothly than in his previous outing. Sevy recorded a quick first out, then whiffed Randy Arozarena and Josh Lowe, overpowering the former with a heater and the latter with a filthy slider.
The second inning started with more of the same, but quickly went off the rails. Sevy disposed of Manuel Margot on three pitches, freezing him with a fastball. Unfortunately, he followed that by plunking the next hitter, and then surrendered a two-run dinger down the left field line to Curtis Mead, one of the Rays’ top prospects. Not to be outdone, Tristan Gray followed with a solo shot, as Tampa went back-to-back off Severino to take the early 3-0 lead.
The Yankees sent Severino back out for the third inning, and he rebounded nicely from the rough second frame. He induced a weak pop fly to shallow left field and then ended his outing by whiffing Lowe again, this time with a high 95-mph fastball. All told, Sevy went 2.2 innings with six strikeouts. 49 pitches on the day, eight of them swings and misses from Rays batters.
Taj Bradley, the Rays’ top prospect, took the ball against New York. And he looked like the real deal, retiring the Yankees in order in the first, inducing weak contact from Anthony Volpe and Anthony Rizzo, and getting Oswaldo Cabrera swinging.
Josh Donaldson led off the second for the Yankees and drilled a fastball back up the middle. The ball struck Bradley on the leg, and the Rays pulled the young fireballer. It was just a brief look at Bradley, but the eyeball test matches the hype. Bradley has a live fastball and was consistently throwing 98-mph gas. Hopefully, he’s alright and doesn’t miss any significant time after being hit by the comebacker.
Oswald Peraza grounded into a double play to negate the Donaldson single. But the much-maligned Aaron Hicks got the Yankees on the board, crushing a ball 404 feet to right field. It’s still probably more likely than not that Hicks is the starting left fielder on Opening Day, so if he wants to start raking, that would be just great.
Willie Calhoun was responsible for the Yankees’ second run of the afternoon. Calhoun launched a solo moonshot down the left field line leading off the third inning. A non-roster invitee, Calhoun’s path to the roster is probably narrow, but hitting dingers will likely help his cause.
Volpe continued his torrid spring. He waited back on a breaking ball, then quickly smashed it to left field, narrowly missing a two-run homerun. He had to settle for a double. But he didn’t stay there for long. Oswaldo followed the Volpe double by launching a three-run shot to right field, giving the Yankees their first lead of the day, 5-4.
Jonathan Loáisiga entered the game to pitch the fourth inning, and the BABIP gods were apparently displeased with the Yankee reliever, as the first two Rays batters greeted him with a seeing eye groundball through the left side of the infield, and a bloop ground rule double to shallow left field. A broken bat flare to left scored a Ray, and tied the game. Ah well. If Johnny Lasagna is going to get burnt by weak contact, March 5th is the time to have it happen.
Rafael Ortega got in on the fun in the bottom of the fourth. The lefty absolutely smoked a fastball 384 feet to left field for a two-run homerun, putting the Yankees back on top, and probably more importantly, showcasing his ability to hit righthanded pitching for power.
With many of the starters gone from the game in the sixth, the Rays reclaimed their lead. They tied the game at seven on a balk, and then a three-run homerun by Ronny Simon put Tampa up by three.
Led by a couple of young guys, the Yankees clawed back in the bottom of the sixth. After a Jasson Domínguez bloop single - if he hadn’t initially thought the ball was going foul he likely would have had a double - the Martian went first-to-third on a rocket up the middle by Estevan Florial. Calhoun continued his solid day with an RBI base hit, and brought New York back within two. That’s where the comeback ended though, after a spectacular play at third base robbed Anthony Volpe of a bases-loaded double that would have at least tied the game.
The Rays put this one away in the top of the ninth. A barrage of singles and doubles resulted in four runs for Tampa, putting them up by a touchdown, before the Yankees finally escaped the frame.
New York refused to go down quietly in the ninth. After a Tyler Hardman comebacker ricocheted into right field for a single, former first round pick Trey Sweeney launched a two-run shot to center field. Domínguez then notched his second hit of the day, but that was the last gasp.
Trey Sweeney HR 418 FT 100.8 MPH pic.twitter.com/3trQYh2pZq— Dugout Station (@DugoutStation) March 4, 2023
You can’t win them all, and there’s no better time to lose to Tampa than in spring training. The Yankees get back at it tomorrow against Atlanta. First pitch at 11:05 am Eastern.