As the Rays head back to Fort Myers today for a game on the other side of I-75 to take on the Twins at 1:05, there are several spring debuts worth noting:
First, that LHP Jonny Venters, trying to make it back to the majors for the first time since 2012, will pitch in a big-league spring training game for the first time since March 2013.
Pitching for the Braves against the Tigers in Lakeland, Venters injured his left elbow and ended up having his second Tommy John surgery. He has since had a third, and another similar procedure –
"3 1/2," he likes to say – in trying to make it back.
After working his way back to Triple-A last season in the Rays minor-league system, making 24 appearances and, most importantly, finishing the season healthy, Venters, 32, sees today as another milestone.
"It's been a while," he said. "One of those things I haven't done in a long time."
And, he hopes, the next step on his way back to the majors.
"Feeling good, can't complain. Everything's fine," Venters said this morning in Port Charlotte. "Hopefully go get some people out. We'll see. That's still yet to be seen."
Venters said he'll have "a whole herd" of family on hand to watch.
* INF Christian Arroyo, the Hernando High product they got back from the Giants in the Evan Longoria trade, will play for the first time today, having taken live BP Saturday and pronounced that his left hand injury is officially behind him. "First day as a normal person," he said.
* C.J. Cron, the power-hitting first baseman acquired last week from the Angels, is set to make his debut, knowing he also has to get adjusted to playing spring games in Florida for the first time, given the different routine in Arizona where all teams are based in the Phoenix area. "I feel like I'm forgetting something," he said.
* The Rays will start Chris Archer on Monday and Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday.
Here is the Rays lineup:
And here is the Twins lineup: