Arkansans in Baseball report:

Stanek in Rays' odd rotation

By: Todd Pearce
Published: Sunday, June 3, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays' Ryne Stanek pitches to the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 26, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Rays' Ryne Stanek pitches to the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 26, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Tampa Bay Rays have turned heads in Major League Baseball over the past couple of weeks by using relievers to start games rather than end them.

One of those relievers is former University of Arkansas, Fayetteville pitcher Ryne Stanek, who was called up to Tampa Bay from the Class AAA Durham Bulls on May 19. His most recent start was Thursday against the Oakland Athletics. But unlike his previous two career appearances against the A's, this one didn't go so well. Stanek took the loss after allowing 2 earned runs on 1 hit with 1 walk over 1 1/3 innings as Tampa Bay lost 7-3 at Oakland.

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Including the Rays' game at Seattle on Friday night, the Rays have used relievers to start seven games -- Stanek twice and Sergio Romo five times -- and are 3-4. In Stanek's only other start for the Rays, he retired the five batters he faced in a 5-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on May 26. His only victory for the Rays this season came Monday, when he threw 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief in a 1-0, 13-inning victory over Oakland.

With only three established starters in their rotation, Rays Manager Kevin Cash told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times the team plans to keep using the "designated openers."

"I think it alters a lineup's approach a little bit, throws a wrinkle in it," Cash said. "Is it going to continue to work? Are we going to have the same thoughts that we have right now as we do in maybe August or September? I don't know."

Despite taking the loss Thursday, Stanek said he likes the plan to use relievers at the beginning of games.

"I think the logic is still good behind [the plan]," Stanek told the Times. "It's just one of those days where a little execution caught me and caught us. It still works, but the same size is still small. It still makes sense for me."

Flying high

Although his team is 14 1/2 games out of first place in its division, first baseman Chad Spanberger is having an impressive first full season with the Class A Asheville Tourists.

Through Thursday's games, the former Razorback is the South Atlantic League's fifth-best hitter with a .324 batting average. He is tied for second in the league with 36 RBI and 102 total bases, is third with 10 home runs and 58 hits, and is fifth with a .570 slugging percentage.

Spanberger, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Colorado Rockies last year, provided immediate returns for the Rockies' rookie-league team in Grand Junction, Colo. After becoming the fifth Arkansas player in school history to hit 20 home runs in a season last year, Spanberger hit another 19 home runs in Grand Junction to go with a .294 batting average, 51 RBI and a .617 slugging percentage.

"I'm just trying to stick to who I am and do my part in the lineup," Spanberger said.

While Spanberger was an outfielder with the Razorbacks, the Rockies have moved him to first base. Spanberger said he has discovered the nuances of playing the position and understands he is a work in progress.

"It is a very important position," Spanberger told Bill Ballew of milb.com. "A lot of people take it for granted, saying all you do is catch the ball. But if you think about it, there's a lot more to it. If you miss a pick, you're not doing your job or helping out your teammates, which is why I'm there."

Spanberger, the Rockies' No. 25 prospect according to milb.com, has been doing his fair share offensively. In the past 10 games, he's batting .382 with 4 stolen bases, 4 runs scored and 2 RBI. That includes a couple of 3-for-4 performances, one coming in a 6-4 victory over the Lexington Legends (A Royals) on May 25 and the other in an 11-3 loss to the Rome Braves (A Braves) on Tuesday.

Spanberger said having success offensively helps with his defense.

"Offense carries over on defense. But if you're having an oh-fer at the plate, you can't let that affect you, so you have to stick to what you do best," Spanberger said.

Beeks' streak

Left-hander Jalen Beeks, a former Arkansas Razorbacks pitcher, is coming off perhaps his best outing of the season for the Class AAA Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday.

Beeks, 24, went 7 innings, allowing 1 earned run on 4 hits with 7 strikeouts in a 4-3 victory over the Norfolk Tides (AAA Orioles). He's in the midst of a four-game stretch of going at least six innings, and he has allowed three earned runs or less in three of the four games.

A 12th-round pick in the 2014 draft, Beeks has a 3-3 record this season with a 2.56 ERA in 10 starts. He has recorded at least 6 strikeouts in all 10 starts, including a season-high 11 on April 28 against the Buffalo Bisons (AAA Blue Jays), and opposing batters are hitting .197 against him.

Around the horn

• Two players with Arkansas ties have been promoted within their respective organizations. Right fielder Forrestt Allday (Central Arkansas) was promoted to Class AAA El Paso by the San Diego Padres, while pitcher Trevor Stephan (Razorbacks) was promoted to Class AA Trenton by the New York Yankees. Allday, who arrived in El Paso on Thursday after pitcher Colby Blueberg was sent to Class A Lake Elsinore, has gone a combined 0 for 5 in 2 games with the Chihuahuas. Stephan took the loss in his first appearance with the Thunder, allowing 6 earned runs on 9 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings as Trenton lost both games of a doubleheader to the Akron RubberDucks (AA Indians).

• Center fielder Jonathan Davis (UCA/Camden) has been hot in his past 10 games for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA Blue Jays), going 12 for 35 for a .343 batting average with 7 runs, 3 RBI and a stolen base. Davis went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored on May 25 in a 10-3 victory over the Hartford YardGoats (AA Rockies), then went 2 for 4 with 1 run scored on both Sunday and Monday in 3-2 and 5-2 victories over the YardGoats. He's batting .292 for the season with 2 home runs and 15 RBI in 47 games.

Information for this report was contributed by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times and Bill Ballew of milb.com

Sports on 06/03/2018

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