In spring debut, Rays’ Zack Littell ‘picked up where he left off’

PORT CHARLOTTE — The last time Zack Littell was built up in spring training as a starting pitcher was 2019 with the Twins’ Triple-A squad.

But after his transition last season from the Rays’ bullpen to their rotation, he spent time talking with other starters and coaches to develop a program for the offseason and spring training.

He was quite pleased with his first outing Tuesday, working two innings in the 4-2 win over the Yankees, allowing one hit, striking out three of the seven batters he faced, throwing 25 of his 35 pitches for strikes.

“Obviously that first one, you always kind of get out there and you kind of feel it out,” Littell said. “But I could tell everything was coming out really nicely (Tuesday). The goal is just go out there and throw a lot of strikes, and it was definitely encouraging.”

Littell, who manager Kevin Cash said slots in to start Game 2 or 3 of the regular season, called it a good first step.

“There’s still stuff that we want to clean up,” Littell said. “I say this every offseason. You kind of go in and some changes happen that you don’t necessarily realize, and it takes a couple extra sets of eyes to notice it’s happening. Overall, extremely happy with everything. My stuff has been very crisp. ...

“That first one’s a good gauge on where you’re at as far as mechanics and stuff. So, coming out of that, I’m obviously encouraged, but there’s still some stuff to work on.”

Cash said he liked what he saw: “Zack picked up where he left off, just throwing strike after strike, challenging hitters. I think that’s what’s made him good. He’s got that confidence to just continue to throw the ball in the zone.”

B. Lowe happy to be back

Tuesday marked a return to game action for second baseman Brandon Lowe, whose 2023 season ended frustratingly on Sept. 21, when he fouled off a pitch that broke his right kneecap.

“Everything’s felt really good,” said Lowe, wearing a guard on the leg. “I’ve had no issues with it, it’s been strong and healthy. So just trying to do whatever I can to stay out there.”

Leftfielder Randy Arozarena also made his debut, saying he had no specific goals for the spring beyond prepping for opening day. “Whatever max amount of at-bats I need, I’ve got to be ready for March 28,” he said via team interpreter Manny Navarro.

Driscoll has eventful inning

Triple-A catcher Logan Driscoll had an eventful and impressive sixth inning on defense, with a strong throw, a nifty play at the plate and a spectacular catch of a foul ball where he jumped over the backstop and into the netting. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a catcher do something like that,” Cash said. “Looked like Spider Man.”

Game details: Rays 4, Yankees 2

The Rays improved to 2-1-1. ... Lefty Tyler Alexander, claimed off waivers from Detroit, impressed Cash in his first outing, allowing one hit over two innings, striking out two: “He looks like he’s got a lot of pitch-ability like we thought, and he showed it.” … Shortstop Jose Caballero, his left arm swollen after being hit by a pitch that wasn’t called, later made a nifty play on a laser hit by Jorbit Vivas to start a double play. … Infielder Osleivis Basabe had to be helped off the field after a rough headfirst slide into third base and was slated to see a doctor. “He either hit the ground or hit the base but dinged his head up pretty good,” Cash said. “He’s better now, but right in the moment it stunned him pretty good.” ... Starting catcher Rene Pinto had two hits. ... Non-roster catcher Nick Meyer homered. … Attendance was 3,853.

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