PORT CHARLOTTE — RHP Nathan Karns took the first steps Thursday toward building a case for the final spot in the Rays’ rotation, but manager Kevin Cash said not to rule out the pitcher expected to get the job before camp began.
RHP Alex Colome, who is out of options and figured to be the fifth starter at least until LHP Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) returns in late June or early July, remains in the Dominican Republic as he awaits his work visa for the season.
Colome is working out at the Rays’ facility in the Dominican.
“Colome is getting his work in. We know that. We’ve had communication on that,” Cash said. “As I’ve said the whole time, we’d like to have him here. I don’t think it’s fair to punish a guy for being held up, so he’s still very much a factor.”
Karns, meanwhile, allowed a hit and a walk in two innings during the Rays’ 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Charlotte Sports Park.
“Got off to the right foot, that’s basically it,” Karns said.
Cash said Karns was missing high in the strike zone but made pitches that he needed to make to get outs.
RHPs Matt Andriese and Burch Smith, who are also in the running for the fifth spot in the rotation, will both work an inning today against the Twins.
Butler almost did it
RF Joey Butler, a teammate of Cash in 2011 with Triple-A Round Rock, drove in both Rays runs Thursday with a seventh-inning double and a ninth-inning homer that hit the batters eye in center field.
“We’ve played together, so I’ve seen him do that. He can hit,” Cash said. “I hope he keeps doing it, because it didn’t look like his first two at-bats of the spring.”
Butler played in six games last season with the Cardinals before he was released. His contract was purchased by the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional League in Japan, where he finished the season.
“The ultimate goal would be to try and make this team, but further than that, this is just getting back in the groove of playing baseball, just trying to get comfortable,” Butler said.
As for playing for a former teammate, Butler said, “It’s a little weird, but at the same time it’s very relaxing. I feel like he’s one of the guys, but at the same time you have that managerial respect for him.”
The Rays threw out four Orioles on the bases during the first four innings.
3B Evan Longoria caught a short blooper on the outfield grass in the first and doubled Everth Cabrera off first base to end the inning.
In the second, C Curt Casali threw out Jimmy Paredes trying to steal second.
In the third, Chris Parmelee hit a ball to the left-field wall that LF David DeJesus lost in the sun and wind. CF Kevin Kiermaier, backing up the play, threw Parmelee out at third base as Parmelee tried to stretch the double into a triple.
In the fourth, RF Brandon Guyer caught Cabrera taking too big of a turn around second on a single by Steve Clevenger and caught Cabrera as he tried to get back to the base.
Cash is in his first year managing while his base coaches — Rocco Baldelli at first and Charlie Montoyo at third — are in their first year as big-leagues coaches.
The three will work this spring on the signals Cash gives from the dugout.
“We’re going to value spring training maybe a little more than a seasoned manager,” Cash said. “We’ve got between myself, Rocco and Charlie, just that on-field communication. I’ve never looked up just after the pitch crossed home plate and had to give signs to a third base coach, so we’re going to practice that, and we’ll emulate, not right out of the gate, but we’ll emulate some innings. We’re going to take these couple of innings and say this is like a real game. Let’s manage this game and do it just like we would, so we’re going to practice.”
The Rays officially announced the signing of RHP Jim Miller to a minor-league contract. Miller will compete for a job in the bullpen. ... LF Corey Brown, a product of Plant High, tripled and scored in the seventh inning. ... It appears RHP Alex Cobb is leaning toward keeping Oscar, the stray dog he found Monday afternoon.