- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2016

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - Drew Smyly allowed two hits in 3 1/3 shutout innings and Desmond Jennings hit his first home run Thursday in the Tampa Bay Rays’ 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Smyly struck out three and walked none in his second start.

“It’s exciting to envision having him healthy and anchoring a big part of our staff,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Hitters have a tough time squaring the ball up him. We’re thrilled with where he’s at right now.”

The 26-year-old left-hander was limited to 12 starts last season because of problems in his pitching shoulder.

“I’m just looking forward to a healthy 2016,” Smyly said. “You can’t dwell on stuff. Every player goes through it. Injuries are part of the game.”

Jennings homered off Francisco Liriano after Logan Forsythe led off the second inning with the second of his three singles. Jennings played in only 28 games because of an injured left knee.

“It’s a relief just to be able to play the game again, to be actually on the field having fun,” Jennings said. “I’m not trying to go back to last season. It is what it is and it happened. It’s over and I’m just trying to move forward. I feel pretty good.”

Cameron Seitzer drove in Tampa Bay’s final two runs with a single in the seventh. Michael Suchy homered for the Pirates in the eighth.


Forsyth was the Rays’ best hitter last season, batting .281 in 153 games, none as a leadoff hitter. “We’re considering it,” Cash of a move to the top of the order. “We’ve talked to Logan, and right now we’re getting a sense for where he’s at with it and seeing what we think of it.” The obvious advantage, according to Cash, is “it gets him an extra 75 at bats throughout the course of the season.”


Pirates: Liriano gave up two runs and five hits while striking out three in three innings. “I was going forward too quickly and not executing pitches,” he said.

Rays: Smyly was replaced in the fourth after giving up a single to Jordy Mercer on his 51st pitch.


Rays: No timetable has been set for the return of rookie C Justin O’Conner, who was optioned to the minor leagues Wednesday in the team’s first roster reduction of the spring. O’Conner has been taking treatments for a herniated disk in his back.


Pirates: RHP Juan Nicasio is to pitch against the Rays in Bradenton.

Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi is slated to face the Pirates in his third start.

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