Rays’ Jose Caballero surprised push came to shove vs. Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG — Jose Caballero sure didn’t expect that.

He had dropped a bunt that stretched the Rays’ lead to 4-1 in the seventh on Saturday, raced around the bases after an errant throw, then slowed going in to third as he saw Jays shortstop Bo Bichette waiting to tag him out, thinking the play was over.

Jays reliever Genesis Cabrera, a former Rays minor-leaguer, had different ideas. Cabrera first pushed Caballero with his glove, as if he was also tagging him. Caballero didn’t like it, and said he asked why. Cabrera responded by pushing him harder, with both hands, one to the face.

“I’m just playing baseball. I try to have fun playing baseball. I enjoy what I do, and I don’t want any problem with anyone,” Caballero said. “But situations always come (up). I didn’t want to go farther than what it was. And unfortunately, he didn’t think the same way.”

Cabrera, speaking through an interpreter, said it was just a “heat of the moment” thing, and nothing more. “I think we all kind of overreact a little bit,” he said. “I mean, he kind of looked at me and I just react. ... It’s part of the game sometimes, but it’s over with. It’s where it ends, right there.”

Both benches and bullpens emptied, but there was no escalation. Cabrera was ejected, and both benches warned.

Jays manager John Schneider said it was “kind of weird” but similarly attributed it to the heat of the moment, praised both teams and the umpires for ending it there and hoped there won’t be any carryover. “Stuff happens sometimes,” he said.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said he was “very encouraged and impressed and proud of the way (Caballero) handled it. Both teams didn’t let it get out of hand.”

Yandy Diaz honored for 2023 batting crown

Yandy Diaz was honored before Saturday’s game for winning last year’s American League batting title, his .330 average well surpassing the previous franchise best of .320 by shortstop Jason Bartlett in 2009. Plus, Diaz outdueled Texas star Corey Seager to claim the crown on the final day of the season to win the first such title in Rays history.

Diaz also won the AL Silver Slugger award at first base for the rest of his numbers, including 22 homers, 78 RBIs, 35 doubles and a .932 OPS (.410 on-base, .522 slugging). He will be presented that award later.

“He did it with the batting average, he did it with the on base, he did it with the power, the slug,” Cash said. “All those things put him as one of the best hitters in our game. And it feels like he’s pretty determined to go back that up again in 2024.

“Congrats to Yandy. If we didn’t say it enough last year when he did win the batting title, that is something really special.”

Tyler Alexander excited

Working behind opener Shawn Armstrong, lefty newcomer Tyler Alexander will be excited to make his first Tampa Bay appearance Sunday. It also will be his first regular-season game action since July 3, when he strained his lat pitching for Detroit in Colorado.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m confident where my stuff is right now, and I feel really good.”

As opposed to some of the hard-throwing Rays pitchers, Alexander’s game is more about throwing his pitches exactly where he wants them to go, including a sweeper he added this spring under the tutelage of pitching coach Kyle Snyder.

“I’m normally a guy that can locate the ball really well. And right now I feel like I’m doing that well,” Alexander said. “I’m manipulating all my other pitches very well.”

Minor matters

Dom Smith, a 28-year-old lefty swinger who has played parts of seven seasons in the majors (six with the Mets), signed a minor-league deal and will join Triple-A Durham in the next few days.

Smith can play first base, leftfield and DH, providing the Rays, already missing lefty hitters Josh Lowe and Jonathan Aranda, depth in case of another injury, or an alternative to rookie Austin Shenton, who made the Rays’ opening roster. That is similar to last week’s trade for Niko Goodrum, who provides versatility to play infield or outfield spots, and is also at Durham.

In setting Durham’s season opening roster, catcher Francisco Mejia, who had returned to the Rays during the spring after being let go by the Angels, was released. The Bulls are carrying three catchers: Rob Brantly, prospect Logan Driscoll and Alex Jackson, who was in line for the big-league backup job until the Wednesday acquisition of Ben Rortvedt.


With the Jays starting lefty Yusei Kikuchi on Saturday, the Rays went with their all-right-handed lineup. That included the first start for Amed Rosario, who has been enjoying living at home in Tampa … USF men’s basketball coach Amir Abdur-Rahim threw out the first pitch. … Though his own wife and four daughters were out of town for the holiday, reliever Jason Adam donned an Easter Bunny outfit to entertain other kids in a post-game family outing on the field. ... Brandon Lowe on Friday had the hardest hit (111 mph) and furthest (444 feet) grand slam by a Ray since Statcast tracking began in 2015.

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