How Rays plan to use pitchers Tyler Alexander and Jacob Waguespack

ST. PETERSBURG — Tyler Alexander returned to the Rays Saturday and is expected to pitch bulk innings behind opener Shawn Armstrong Sunday against the Giants. He was activated from the bereavement list before Saturday’s game and was available as an emergency arm in the 11-2 loss to the Giants.

“So, he’s active (Saturday), and then we’ll see how we get through the game and whether we open ahead of him or he starts,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Saturday’s game.

To make room on the roster, Jacob Waguespack, who held the Giants to one run over four innings in Friday’s win, was sent to Triple-A Durham. Waguespack, who made his first start in the big leagues since 2019 to fill in for Alexander, will be stretched out in the minors before returning to the Rays as a spot starter.

“I think that was our thought all along,” Cash said. “We knew getting out of the gate that we probably needed some extra coverage in the bullpen. And credit to Wags. We had built him up as a starter all spring and didn’t pull his workload back until his last outing ... But we really envision him as being able to help us in that starting role. ... He’s going to get three or four days’ rest now, and then slot in (to Durham’s rotation).”

The Rays placed Alexander on bereavement leave Tuesday for an undisclosed reason. He said he was able to keep his arm loose and strong by playing catch at a college near his home.

“I was home the last couple of days, but fortunately so was TCU and I live not too far from that stadium,” he said. “I’ve got some buddies there, so I played catch every day while I was there.”

Alexander enters Sunday’s game with an 8.68 ERA, having yielded four home runs over 9⅓ innings of work. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits and two walks over 4⅓ innings in his most recent start, April 6 against the Rockies.

Still, Alexander, claimed off waivers from the Tigers in November, enters Sunday’s game with confidence.

“Well, I think if I can pitch to my game, which is early contact, early weak contact, fill up the zone and make quality pitches, I think I’ll be successful,” he said.

On second thought

Shortstop Taylor Walls, recovering from offseason hip surgery, will not head out for extended spring training games next week after all.

“Walls is just not going as quick as maybe we had originally anticipated,” Cash said. “It’s not a setback, but he’s just not quite ready to go out and go compete in games. So, we’re going to take it probably day to day with him.”

The long injured list

In other rehab news, Cash said outfielder Josh Lowe, rehabbing from an oblique strain, will play in extended spring training games in Port Charlotte on Monday and Wednesday. Then, the Rays will evaluate whether he is ready to go on rehab assignment to Durham.

Pitcher Taj Bradley, who suffered a pectoral strain in the spring, is scheduled to throw three innings in extended spring training on Wednesday. Pitcher Shane Baz, returning from September 2022 Tommy John surgery, will throw live batting practice on Friday.

Infielder Jonathan Aranda, who broke his right ring finger in spring training, is scheduled to have the pins taken out on Monday. Outfielder Jonny DeLuca, who suffered a broken hand, has felt expected soreness while beginning to pick up a bat again. “So he’s progressing,” Cash said, “but slowly.”

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