With 160 games left in the regular season, it seems a little early to be celebrating, but Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz has a professional and personal reason to do just that.
Off to a strong start in 2023, Diaz likely will be leading off Sunday afternoon for the Rays when they attempt to finish a season-opening sweep of the Detroit Tigers in St. Petersburg, Fla.
In Tampa Bay’s 12-2 Saturday rout of Detroit, the first baseman went 3-for-4 with a homer, double, walk, three RBIs and three runs as the Rays used a seven-run third inning to cruise to the win.
Diaz, 31, reached base four times in the first four frames, capping it with his first homer of the season — a two-run laser to left field for a 10-1 lead.
When he returned to the dugout, his teammates formed a line, and Diaz ducked under their arms and finished the short trek by pretending to rock a baby.
“Simply put, my wife is pregnant, and it’s going to be my first baby,” Diaz said through a translator. “I was very excited, so I was able to show my emotion about being excited to have my first baby.
“Every home run I hit, I’m going to dedicate to my wife and my kid because of that.”
A serious, scowling player when it is game time and the action is between the lines, Diaz is regarded as a fun-loving teammate and a lively clubhouse presence.
After the Rays sent 13 batters to the plate in the third, the seventh-year player said there was plenty to be happy about.
“We were able to take advantage of that inning and were able to score some runs,” said Diaz, who hit .296 last year. “We were able to open up the game.”
Detroit manager A.J. Hinch’s pitching staff will need a strong performance from Spencer Turnbull this season, but the right-hander wasn’t up to the task Saturday in his first start since Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2021.
“He was a little tentative early getting into counts,” Hinch said of Turnbull, who allowed seven runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings. “There were probably a lot of emotions going into the game, but a tough start.”
Joey Wentz, 25, who made seven starts and put up impressive numbers last season, will start for the Tigers Sunday.
Across those seven outings, Wentz tossed 32 2/3 innings and recorded a 2-2 mark to go along with a 3.03 ERA. He allowed 23 hits and two homers while striking out 27 and walking 13.
Wentz had a difficult spring training but showed enough in late 2022 that Hinch put him in the rotation with starter Michael Lorenzen (groin strain) on the mend.
Currently on the 15-day injured list, Lorenzen has been ramping up his readiness and threw bullpens this week.
Three days after Shane McClanahan shut down Detroit, Tampa Bay will send out another tough southpaw in Jeffrey Springs, who converted from reliever to starter last season and went 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 games (25 starts).
Springs, 30, beat the Tigers in his lone career appearance against them on Aug. 4, 2022. He started and allowed two runs (both unearned) over six innings in a 6-2 win.
–Field Level Media
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