Emilio Pagan getting opening act down


PORT CHARLOTTE — Spring training is not only about working on pitches and swings in the exhibition games, but also experimenting with routine.

And new Rays right-hander Emilio Pagan felt he made a good adjustment in treating Thursday’s second opening assignment more like a start than a normal relief outing, and was pleased with the results after throwing two scoreless innings in a 4-3 loss to the Phillies.

“I figured now’s the time to play with it, see what works for me,” said Pagan, acquired in trade from Oakland. “I didn’t feel like it was too much of a difference, maybe just playing catch a little bit longer before I got on the mound than I would in a relief role. I felt like it probably worked a little bit better than just jumping straight to the mound like I did in Sarasota (on Feb. 26, when he allowed four hits and a walk). There’s going to be some playing around with it, but I like the way today went as far as the preparation getting ready for the open.”

Pagan appears a strong candidate for a final bullpen and potential opener role, competing with Hunter Wood.

Manager Kevin Cash likes what he has seen. “Another good outing,” he said. “He’s had a good spring. I think we knew what we were getting when we acquired him but at the same time it’s always refreshing to see that backed up. He’s been solid. Throws strikes, comes right hitters, both the breaking balls seem like they played well.”

Duffy making progress

Third baseman Matt Duffy sounded philosophical but was just being realistic in updating his recovery from a left hamstring strain: “The plan, I think, is to play when I play.”

Duffy, limited thus far to one Feb. 28 spring appearance, said he is feeling good and running fine at limited speed. He said a change to a slow progression of adding activities has helped, with loose plans to start taking ground balls Sunday. He remains optimistic if the hamstring feels good he has enough time to be ready for the March 28 opener. Cash said he is also optimistic but cautioned the Rays will “be smart” about the situation.

Game details

Catcher Mike Zunino, hitting leadoff to get an extra at-bat, drilled a three-run homer. … Righty Cole Sulser, acquired from Cleveland in the Jake Bauers-Yandy Diaz trade, struck out four of the six batters he faced, Cash noting “he’s an interesting guy,” with something in his delivery that throws hitters off and leads to strikeouts, 95 in 60 2/3 minor-league innings last year. … Ji-Man Choi continued his impressive defensive showing with a slick play to save a Willy Adames throw to end the second. … Diego Castillo stuck out four of eight batters. … The Rays (9-10-1) experimented again with a four-man outfield shift, though Dylan Cozens went over it for an eighth-inning homer off Colin Poche that won the game.

Spring things

* Tommy Pham has been limited to DH since for the past two weeks due to shoulder concerns, but has progressed in a strengthening program and is slated to return to leftfield mid-week, Cash said.

* Cash said No. 3 starter Tyler Glasnow showed strong command of his breaking ball and a blazing fastball in a minor-league game Wednesday, clocking 98-101 mph.

* Non-roster catcher Anthony Bemboom is expected to miss four to six weeks with a left thumb sprain and partial ligament tear, but no surgery is needed.

* The Rays host the Tigers in Port Charlotte at 1:05 Friday and visit the Pirates in Bradenton at 6:05; Cash plans to manage both games but acknowledged the traffic through Sarasota will have the say on his arrival time.

* Fox Sports broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt, who will call about 20 games when Dewayne Staats is off, was at Thursday’s game.

Number of the day

12 Blake Snell’s spot on ESPN.com’s ranking of the top 100 players

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