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For starters: Rays at Orioles, with Faria on the mound

UPDATE, 6:08: The Rays voided the option of rookie INF Daniel Robertson to the minors, instead placing him on the big-league DL due to neck spasms, retro to June 26. Robertson gets the benefit of big-league pay and service time. ... Cash said he went with Plouffe tonight because he matches up well against Tillman and will be playing a lot over the next week as they face a bunch of lefties. ... Cash said Faria doesn't need to change much in facing the Orioles for a second straight start. ... Rookie LHP Adam Kolarek, who made his big-league debut on Thursday. was excited to be back in Baltimore with lots of friends and family expected at the games this weekend.

Here is the Orioles lineup:
Smith rf
Machado 3b
Schoop 2b
Jones cf
Trumbo dh
Mancini 1b
Castillo c
Tejada ss
Rickard lf
Tillman p

DEVELOPING: After losing two straight in Pittsburgh and not doing much at the plate, the Rays are in Baltimore tonight to open a weekend series with the Orioles.

Rookie RHP Jake Faria, who has yet to lose in four big-league starts, will be on the mound against Orioles RHP Chris Tillman. …

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Rays series preview: Who are the Orioles?

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter has had a lot to ponder this year.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter has had a lot to ponder this year.

Yup, these guys again! For the second straight weekend, the Rays will face the Orioles — but this time, they'll make the trip to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Here's the (additional) information you need to know about Baltimore before the action kicks off.

Record: 39-39, fourth place in AL East

Record vs. Rays this year: 4-2

Record since last facing Rays: 2-1

According to a few different statistical models — among them FanGraphs' BaseRuns and Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Standings — the O's should be in last place in the division and on pace to lose 90+ games. Yet they continue to hug .500, thanks to a whole lot of good luck, mostly in the form of close wins. The Rays were on the receiving end of that last weekend, when they outscored the Birds 23-21 yet dropped two of the three contests. Baltimore probably won't keep this up, though, as this squad lacks the depth and all-around talent of its overachieving predecessors.

"Yes, the Orioles are mathematically alive for a wild-card spot, but they're going to have to pitch significantly better than they have thus far if their postseason aspirations are to come to fruition." (Rich Dubroff, PressBox) …

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Rays morning after: Adam Kolarek makes impressive debut, now faces hometown Orioles

LHP Adam Kolarek couldn't help but be impressed by the fancy downtown Pittsburgh hotel, picturesque and multi-decked PNC Park and the top-notch facilities and clubhouse accoutrements during his first 24 hours as a big-leaguer with the Rays.

But when he actually got out on the field to play catch, up in the bullpen to warm up and then, with two outs in the seventh inning on Thursday, actually in a major-league game, he felt pretty comfortable.

"Honestly with the whirlwind of the last day or so. taking it all in, just being at the park and in the lockerroom and at the hotel and having my family here, it's just been the coolest,'' Kolarek said. "It's been more then I could have ever imagined.

"During BP, playing catch, and during the game, that's when I felt like normal.''

Having spent eight seasons in the minors, Kolarek officially became a big-leaguer when he came into the game with two on and two outs in the seventh and John Jaso at the plate.

"The adrenaline was flowing for sure,'' Kolarek said. "I kind of took the approach that I started last year and brought it into this year: I don't have time to be nervous, it's time to perform. I've put it all the work, now it's time to do it.'' …

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For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Boxberger in pen, Archer on mound

The Rays will have a potentially valuable addition to their bullpen, as Brad Boxberger has been activated off the disabled list.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

The Rays will have a potentially valuable addition to their bullpen, as Brad Boxberger has been activated off the disabled list.

UPDATE, 5:53: Boxberger said he is healthy, ready to go and eager to pitch in key situations when needed. Cash said they don't know what to expect from Boxberger given lost '16 and 1st half of '17 season, but upside can be significant. ... Cash says just a day off for Mallex, wanted to get Peterson in, so that left Souza to play CF. ... Dickerson was happy to hear he had taker over as the top votegetter for the AL DH spot at the noon update with voting ending at midnight tonight, but won't give it too much thought until the results are released on Sunday.

UPDATE, 3:50: No Mallex Smith tonight for Rays, so it's Souza in CF and leading off.

Here is the Rays lineup:

Souza cf,
Dickerson lf,
Longoria 3b,
Morrison 1b,
Beckham 2b,
Peterson rf,
Hechavarria ss,
Sucre c,
Archer p

DEVELOPING: Coming off Wednesday's 6-2 loss to the Pirates, the Rays are playing to win a game and a series tonight, first pitch 7:05.

The Rays will have their top starter, RHP Chris Archer, on the mound, and they also will have a potentially valuable addition to their bullpen, as RHP Brad Boxberger has been activated off the DL. …

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Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger

The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In designating Farquhar for assignment, the Rays opted to keep RHP Jumbo Diaz, who is 0-3, 5.40 in 27 appearances.

Boxberger is coming off the DL after rehabbing a spring flexor issue and then delayed further due to some oblique tightness. The Rays are hoping he can return to his 2015 All-Star form and provide a strong complement to Alex Colome at the back end of the bullpen.

Because Boxberger was on the 60-day DL, the Rays had to create room on the 40- and 25-man rosters.

 

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Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium (w/video)

A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

[Photo from video]

A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he saw three men trying to hold on to a woman who was standing on a ledge on the other side of the bridge railing over the Allegheny River.

One of the men was Tumpane, who yelled for Weinman to try to secure her feet from underneath the railing.

"I got down and just grabbed her feet and held on as long at it took to get her back over the railing," Weinman said.

Tumpane said it was a team effort to save the woman but that Weinman "was a Godsend" in holding her ankles.

At one point, the woman - who said repeatedly she didn't want to be saved - briefly shook loose from Weinman, who was lying flat on his stomach to reach under the railing. "That was the scariest part," he said.

Eventually, police and other first responders arrived and secured the woman with a rope, then asked Weinman to help get a sheet between her legs to serve as a harness so they could pull her back over the railing. She was taken to a hosptial with non-life threatening injuries, according to Pittsburgh police.

"I was there in a good spot and helped how I could. ... I just did what I thought you should," Weinman said. "It feels good knowing that she's alive."

McCabe said, "The part that broke your heart was that she kept saying things like, 'Just let me go, let me go. I want to go.' "

Tumpane was heading back to his hotel room after lunch around 2:30 p.m. when he saw the woman climbing over the railing. …

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For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Blake Snell on the mound

Blake Snell returns to the majors for the Rays tonight after a six-week stint at Triple-A Durham.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Blake Snell returns to the majors for the Rays tonight after a six-week stint at Triple-A Durham.

UPDATE, 5:51: Cash said there are no concerns about closer Alex Colome's health and the Rays are confident with a few adjustments - mechanicss, timing, pitch selection/location - he will be fine. ... RHP Brad Boxberger came through his Tuesday rehab game fine and is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow. meaning there will be yet another roster move. ... LHP Adam Kolarek was obviously thrilled to make it to the majors after 8 years in the minors, and Cash said he plans to use him right away, noting his ability to get a lot of ground balls. .... RHP Austin Pruitt was sent down to Triple-A and will work again as a starter providing rotation depth. .... LHP Jose Alvarado also was sent down, with the idea he will work on throwing his curveball more and to experiment with adding a slider or cutter. ... OF Colby Rasmus (hip) is eligible to come off the DL Thursday bit is not ready, with no date even set yet to play rehab games.

Here is the Pirates lineup:
Moroff 2b
Harrison lf
McCutchen cf
Freese 3b
Osuna rf
Bell 1b
Diaz c
Mercer ss
Nova p …

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What’s wrong with Blake Snell’s fastball?

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell will start tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates. His performance will depend on his four-seam fastball.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell will start tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates. His performance will depend on his four-seam fastball.

Blake Snell's MLB tenure to this point has been inconsistent, to say the least. As a rookie in 2016, he posted a 3.54 ERA, but his walk rate (12.7 percent) and batting average on balls in play (.354) were among the worst in the majors. Starting the 2017 season with the Rays, he took a step backward, with a spike in home runs and even more walks inflating his ERA to 4.71.

For his young big-league career, Snell has a 3.92 ERA in 131 innings. While he hasn't been a bad pitcher, he's fallen short of the potential ascribed to the Baseball America minor-league player of the year. As he takes the hill tonight for the Rays, it's worth wondering what Snell will need to change to make the leap.

Of the four pitches in Snell's arsenal, three aren't really the problem. The changeup has been consistently excellent, the curveball served him well last year and the slider showed some progress in his stint earlier this season. All the secondary pitches are in order; it's the four-seam fastball that has held Snell back to this point. …

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Rays morning after: Why Alex Cobb was out of the game and Alex Colome was in

Alex Cobb said he had no problem with the decision, even though he had what would have been the Rays first complete game since May 14, 2016, in his sights.

Getty Images

Alex Cobb said he had no problem with the decision, even though he had what would have been the Rays first complete game since May 14, 2016, in his sights.

Alex Cobb obviously did a really good job pitching the first eight innings for the Rays on Tuesday.

So why didn't manager Kevin Cash let him pitch the ninth?

Because he had Alex Colome available to do so.

Cobb had thrown only 98 pitches, so workload and fatigue were not factors.

And he obviously hadn't been pushed too hard, not allowing a hit until the seventh, and working out of the only jam he had by getting a double-play grounder.

Basically, Cash said, he wanted to use Colome, who had struggled in his last two outings, figuring this was a chance, with a two-run lead and a full inning to work with, to get right. It turned out wrong, however, as Colome blew the 2-0 lead, though the Rays ralled to win 4-2 in 10 innings.

"That's why he's here, to close games, to finish for us,'' Cash said. "Alex (Cobb) probably had enough in the tank, 98-99 pitches, whatever it was. Managing a game, he's done enough to win.

A guy gets on, two guys get on, you're going to come out and I don't think it's an ideal situation given what Alex (Colome) has been through the last couple outings. I wanted to give him a clean inning. It worked out to a point. ...'' …

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Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

Jose Alvarado allowed runs in five of his last six outings and took three losses.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Jose Alvarado allowed runs in five of his last six outings and took three losses.

The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28.

Pruitt seemed likely to be sent down to make room for LHP Blake Snell, who is rejoining the rotation, with RHP Erasmo Ramirez going to the bullpen.

Alvarado's demotion was warranted as the 22-year-old rookie has been struggling mightily since an impressive first month after his unexpected promotion from Double-A, allowing runs in five of his last six outings and taking three losses.

The Rays didn't have any obvious replacements, but are turning to Kolarek, who had been pitching well for them at Triple-A Durham, posting a 1.36 ERA for 33 innings over 31 games, allowing 26 hits and 12 walks with 29 strikeouts. …

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Top pick Brendan McKay signing with Rays for $7M bonus

Brendan McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.

AP photo

Brendan McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.

The Rays are set to sign top pick 1B/LHP Brendan McKay for a bonus just over $7-million, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.

The deal is expected to be finalized tonight.

Also Tuesday, the Rays signed 3rd-round pick SS Taylor Walls, who played for FSU.

Going into the CWS, McKay hit .343 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs while going 10-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 140 in 104 innings.

Being a two-way player is unusual, the Rays say that - at least initially - they will let McKay do both and see where it leads.

 

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For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down

The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.

MARC TOPKIN / TAMPA BAY TIMES

The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.

UPDATE, 3:26: And the Rays indeed have Hechavarria at SS and Beckham at 2B. Also, with no DH Dickerson is in left.

Rays lineup:
Smith cf,
Dickerson lf,
Longoria 3b,
Morrison 1b,
Souza rf,
Ramos c,
Beckham 2b,
Hechavarria ss,
Cobb p

And the Pirates lineup:
Frazier lf
Harrison 2b
McCutchen cf
Bell 1b
Freese 3b
Polanco rf
Mercer ss
Stewart c
Williams p

UPDATE, 3:09: Rays have activated Hechavarria and sent down Robertson.

Also, C Derek Norris was released; he had been DFA'd last week.

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back on the field tonight in Pittsburgh, and they will have a new look with SS Adeiny Hechavarria, acquired Monday from the Marlins, expected to be in the lineup.

Tim Beckham, who has been playing regularly at short, is expected to move to second.

The Rays will have to make room on the roster for Hechavarria, with either Daniel Robertson or Taylor Featherson expected to be sent down. Or given that they are playing under NL rules, the Rays could drop a reliever to have an extra position player.

RHP Alex Cobb will be on the mound for the Rays, with RHP Trevor Williams starting for the Pirates.

Lineups when available.

 

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Rays series preview: Who are the Pirates?

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, left, has rebounded from a rough start, while fellow outfielder Gregory Polanco, right, has fallen off recently.

Justin Berl/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, left, has rebounded from a rough start, while fellow outfielder Gregory Polanco, right, has fallen off recently.

After an off day Monday, the Rays head on the road to PNC Park for a three-game interleague series against the Pirates. Here's the information you need to know about Pittsburgh before the action kicks off.

Record: 35-41, fourth in NL Central

After making the playoffs in three straight seasons, the Pirates have fallen off the pace. They finished 78-83 in 2016 and have been even worse thus far in 2017. Their middle-of-the-pack pitching staff hasn't compensated for a defense with too many holes and a lineup that's hit the third-fewest home runs (74) in the majors. With stalwart outfielder Andrew McCutchen set to hit the free agent market after the 2018 season, the team could trade him and rebuild, but Pittsburgh's young talent could return it to contention in the near future.

"What are the odds that the Pirates trade Andrew McCutchen? I'm guessing good. … It's not out of the question that the Pirates will rally in the six weeks leading to the non-waiver deadline. More likely, though, they will be in roughly the same position as they were last year." (Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports) …

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Rays make Hechavarria trade official

Here is the release from the team ...

 The Rays have acquired shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Miami Marlins for two pros­pects, right-handed pitcher Ethan Clark and outfielder Braxton Lee. Hechavarria remains on the Rays 10-day disabled list, retroactive to May 10, with a left oblique strain. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Rays have transferred right-handed pitcher Diego Moreno (right shoulder bursitis) from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list.

Hechavarria (etch-ah-vah-REE-yah), 28, is a six-year veteran of the Marlins (2013-17) and Toronto Blue Jays (2012). He owns a career .255 batting average (573-for-2,248) with 78 doubles, 31 triples, 15 home runs, 183 RBI and 26 stolen bases. Since 2014, his 23 triples are tied for 5th most in the National League. He has started 572 games at shortstop since being acquired by the Marlins prior to the 2013 season, which ranks 2nd in the NL behind Brandon Crawford of the San Fran­cisco Giants (623). He has a career .979 fielding percentage at shortstop, and in 2015 was one of three finalists for the NL Rawlings Gold Glove Award at shortstop, along with Crawford and Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves.  …

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UPDATE: Rays finalizing deal to get SS Hechavarria for 2 minor-leaguers

Adeiny Hechavarria is a two-time Gold Glove finalist who could help settle the Rays sometimes leaky infield defense.

Getty Images

Adeiny Hechavarria is a two-time Gold Glove finalist who could help settle the Rays sometimes leaky infield defense.

UPDATE, 4:27: In making the deal, the Rays add an elite-level defender to an infield that could use the help. But it also raises a number of questions, such as will they now move Tim Beckham to 2B? Does this mean Matt Duffy is not coming back this season? Is Daniel Robertson or Taylor Featherston going to AAA? And what of Brad Miller, who was the starting second baseman but has been on the DL with a groin strain?

UPDATE, 3:37: The teams are in agreeemenrt on the trade, pending a final review of medicals and other details. The Rays get Hechavarria in return for Class AA OF Braxton Lee and Class A RHP Ethan Clark. The Rays would pay the $2.25-million left on Hechavarria's contract, and have control for 2018 when he is again eligible for arbitration.

Though Hechavarria has been on the DL for more than a month with an oblique strain, the Rays are confident he is ready to play.

Lee is hitting .318 with a .778 OPS and 12 steals for Montgomery. He was a 2014 12th round-pick. Clark, who was just named Midwest League pitcher of the week, is 3-2, 3.11 for Bowling Green. He is 22 and was a 15th-round pick in 2015, …

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