Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays Pick & Prediction MARCH 31st 2024

After leaning on his starting pitchers to deliver two straight wins, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash is shifting his strategy for Sunday’s matinee against the Toronto Blue Jays in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Cash will deploy right-hander Shawn Armstrong as an opener before likely calling on lefty Tyler Alexander to serve as a bulk reliever.

The change comes even after Aaron Civale and Zack Littell each worked six effective innings for Tampa Bay in their respective starts on Friday and Saturday.

Armstrong relieved starter Zach Eflin on Thursday, surrendering two runs in 1 1/3 innings. Alexander, meanwhile, likely will make his Rays debut after spending his first five seasons with Detroit.

Alexander went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA last year in 25 appearances, all but one coming in relief, before sustaining a lat strain in early July that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Cash praised Alexander’s execution and command, adding that the left-hander “earned” his place within Tampa Bay’s pitching staff.

Alexander did not go over 3 2/3 innings in any of his outings last season, but the 29-year-old is prepared to help his new club on the mound regardless of the workload.

“I want to throw a lot of innings. I want to help the team win. I don’t care what capacity it is,” Alexander said, per MLB.com. “As long as I’m in the big leagues, I don’t care what I’m doing.”

Alexander is 0-1 with a 2.61 ERA in four career appearances against Toronto.

The Blue Jays will counter on Sunday with right-hander Kevin Gausman, who was limited during spring training while dealing with soreness in his throwing shoulder.

Gausman led the American League with 237 strikeouts last season and finished third in the Cy Young voting, posting a 12-9 record and a 3.16 ERA across 31 starts. The 33-year-old is 8-8 with a 3.79 ERA in 21 career appearances against Tampa Bay.

Rays right fielder Amed Rosario has two home runs in nine career at-bats against Gausman. He collected two hits in Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win over Toronto on Saturday.

Randy Arozarena complemented Rosario’s contributions with an electric day at the plate and on the basepaths. The left fielder hit an opposite-field home run and finished 2-for-3 to go with two stolen bases and three runs scored for the Rays.

The Blue Jays have struggled to sustain the power and plate discipline that keyed their season-opening win. Toronto has homered once and drawn four walks over its last two games after going deep three times and taking seven free passes on Thursday.

Sunday’s game may have extra spice if any hostility carries over from Saturday’s benches-clearing incident after the seventh inning.

Tempers flared when Blue Jays reliever Genesis Cabrera shoved Jose Caballero in the face after the Tampa Bay shortstop laid down an RBI bunt and was tagged out at third advancing on an error. Cabrera was ejected.

“I would say it was more of the heat of the moment,” Cabrera said after the game through an interpreter, per the Toronto Sun. “We kind of overreacted a little bit.”

Cash praised Caballero for how he handled himself during the situation, while Arozarena hopes the hostility doesn’t continue.

“The last thing you want is someone getting injured,” Arozarena said.

As far as Cabrera is concerned, Saturday’s incident shouldn’t impact Sunday’s contest.

“Emotions. It’s part of the game sometimes,” Cabrera said. “But it’s over.”

–Field Level Media

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