For Rays, weather in Colorado creates a major challenge

DENVER — Playing in Saturday’s bitter and biting conditions, with near-freezing temperatures and gusting and swirling winds, was as bad as it looked.

“I think it was the lowest temperature I’ve ever played in,” said Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “It was not comfortable for hitters. I honestly don’t think it was comfortable for pitchers, either. It was really cold out there.”

Players wore multiple layers of clothing under their jerseys and masks on their faces, some using handwarmers on the bodies and quarterback-style pouches for their hands. There were heaters in the dugout.

“It’s still pretty cold out there, but we do everything we can with the handwarmers,” infielder Isaac Paredes said, via Navarro.

Relievers had the benefit of some shelter in the bullpen.

“We had one small heater, so we were kind of fighting over it,” reliever Colin Poche said. “It was pretty chilly down there. The wind gusts were kind of hitting us. But nothing compared to the cold you feel on the mound. So, all those guys in the field all day, big kudos to them. It was tough.”

During a seventh-inning pitching change, the Rays outfielders went into the bullpen.

“They were very eager to run in and and share the heater,” Poche said. “So, whatever those guys can do to stay warm. I’m sure they were they were pretty cold out there.”

Pepiot to stick to plan

Though the final line from his Rays debut wasn’t impressive, Ryan Pepiot insisted there was some good in how he ended up there, allowing six runs on four hits and four walks (including the first two batters) over 5⅔ innings Monday against the Rangers.

The key to success for Pepiot, who came from the Dodgers in the Tyler Glasnow trade, is attacking the zone early. And that was a primary topic of conversation heading into Sunday’s game against the Rockies.

Strike-throwing was a point of emphasis during spring training games, and from about halfway on it looked like Pepiot got it. Now, he has to continue doing so.

“After the first inning (Monday), after (Josh Jung’s three-run) home run, it was really just like it felt to where it was before,” Pepiot said. “It was kind of like the Minnesota (spring) game, where you kind of start out a little slow. You see that if you don’t fill up the zone to start the game, you get yourself in a crappy situation with two walks to start the game.

“Against a good lineup like (Texas), you’re not going to have much success. You leave up one pitch, and they end up with three runs.’’

Pepiot said the focus on strike-throwing remains. “From after that, it was solid. The strike zone focus is there the whole time. It’s what I did last year, it’s what I did to finish camp. … Just attack from pitch one, and let one pitch take you to the next.”

Special memories

Though more than half of the Rays had never played at Coors Field before Friday, the picturesque ballpark holds special memories for some.

Infielder/outfielder Amed Rosario made his big-league debut there on Aug. 1, 2017, for the Mets, called up from Triple A.

“It was a dream come true,” Rosario said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Just like every child says, they want to accomplish their dreams, and on that day I was able to accomplish mine.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash got to celebrate a World Series championship in Denver as a member of the 2007 Red Sox, who swept the Rockies.

“It was a very special memory, anytime you do something like that and get to be part of it,” Cash said. “This place was rocking. The Rockies were a really, really good team, highlighted by some really good players. Matt Holliday comes to mind. But it is special anytime you’re winning that last game of the season. We were able to do that here.”


Cash said the decision to use Poche to close was easy with Pete Fairbanks unavailable: “There wasn’t even a thought to go to somebody else. It was pretty easy. Pete was down, and go to Poche — he’s been there and done it a lot.” ... Cash said there was no follow-up Saturday to Fairbanks’ complaints on Friday about a lack of consistency to the feel of the balls, which led to three consecutive walks in the ninth inning, and eventually a 10-7 loss. ... Jake Odorizzi, the 11-year veteran who signed a minor-league deal March 15, is slated to start for Triple-A Durham on Sunday, his second appearance for the Bulls after pitching in the Rays’ final spring game. If Odorizzi feels he is ready for the majors, the Rays will have to decide to make room for him or allow him to go elsewhere. ... Friday’s game was the first in Rays history in which they entered the final inning trailing by four or more runs, tied or took the lead and lost on a walkoff, according to Elias. They also became the first team in major-league history, per OptaStats, to erase a four-run deficit in the top of the ninth and lose in the bottom on a walkoff grand slam. .

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