In Thursday night’s series finale with Texas at Tropicana Field, the Rays commemorated the 74th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, with all players and coaches from both clubs donning jerseys featuring Robinson’s iconic No. 42.
Rays right-hander Chris Archer was among the 230-plus Major League players who donated their gameday salaries on Jackie Robinson Day to support The Players Alliance, a group of current and former players striving to create equal opportunities for the Black community at every level of baseball. The Players Alliance is honoring Robinson’s life and legacy through its Breaking Barriers campaign, which will include a commitment to supporting the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
The Players Alliance raised more than $1 million on Jackie Robinson Day last year, with those proceeds going toward the Alliance’s efforts to give back to Black communities through initiatives like the Players Pull Up Neighbor tour. The tour stopped through Tampa in early January, providing baseball gear and equipment and a pop-up pantry along with resources to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sporting a “Breaking Barriers” shirt designed by The Players Alliance, Rays first base coach Ozzie Timmons spoke highly of the work the group did then and continues to do now.
“That’s a big movement that’s going really well. It’s showing how many Black players are out there trying to make it better for more Black players to get into the game,” said Timmons, who took part in the Tampa event earlier this year. “I know they’re going through a lot of Black communities, bringing awareness to baseball and trying to get more kids involved in it. I think The Players Alliance is a great way to start as far as the activism in baseball and letting people know about Black kids in the smaller communities.”
The Rays’ game-worn Jackie Robinson Day jerseys will be available for auction at the team’s official auction site, with proceeds benefitting the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Before Thursday’s game, Timmons offered a reminder that Robinson’s impact is felt and his legacy remembered every day, not just on the day they all wear No. 42.
“Every day you step on the field, you think about Jackie Robinson, especially being a Black player or a Black coach.”
Welcome to New York
The Rays will begin a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, their first trip to the Bronx since their heated matchups last September. Things could get chippy again this weekend, especially considering how frustrated the Rays were to see the Yankees hit three batters — one each game, including Austin Meadows twice — during their recent series at Tropicana Field.
Infielder Mike Brosseau, who dodged a 101 mph fastball Aroldis Chapman threw near his head last September, admitted it’s frustrating and “not a good situation” when he and his teammates are repeatedly thrown at or hit by pitches. But Brosseau said he was hopeful that the conversation this weekend will steer away from back-and-forth purposes pitches and back toward the subject of “good baseball between two really good teams that are fighting for a division title.”
Still, Brosseau might get some grief from the road crowd. He admitted he’s thought about the reaction he might receive at Yankee Stadium in his first trip there since ending the Yankees’ season last October with his game-winning homer off Chapman in Game 5 of the ALDS.
“They’re good fans. They’re loud, and they make their voices heard,” Brosseau said. “So yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ll hear some good one-liners here or there.”
Around the horn
• Kevin Kiermaier (left quad strain) faced live pitching and ran the bases before Thursday’s game. The center fielder won’t come off the 10-day injured list before Friday’s series opener, but he will travel with the Rays and should be activated at some point during their six-game trip through New York and Kansas City.
“He’s made progress,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He looked really good today, so we’re excited about that.”
• After a solid five-inning season debut on Wednesday night, left-hander Josh Fleming will stick around for at least one more turn through the Rays’ rotation. Fleming could be used as a starter, as he was Wednesday, or pitch after an opener, as he did twice last season. Tampa Bay called on Fleming to replace Chris Archer, who remains on the 10-day injured list with right lateral forearm tightness.
• Willy Adames and Yoshi Tsutsugo were out of the lineup for Thursday’s series finale against the Rangers. Tsutsugo was available off the bench, with Cash saying that the day off would give the struggling first baseman a chance to “hopefully clear his mind a little bit.” Adames started 11 of the Rays’ first 12 games at shortstop, so Cash felt it was a good time to give him a day off.