Debut was a long time coming for Rays’ Cristofer Ogando

Tampa Bay 43 days ago
Rays reliever Cristofer Ogando, 28, finally made his major-league debut, pitching two innings Sunday in Toronto.

TORONTO — Cristofer Ogando’s first stay in the majors may be short after his Sunday debut, throwing two innings in the 7-3 win over the Blue Jays.

But that doesn’t make the 28-year-old’s long journey to get there, which included nearly five years out of pro ball, any less amazing.

“It’s definitely been a long process,” Ogando said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “It’s been a long adventure getting to here. But especially being out of the game for about five years, I’m happy to be here now.”

Ogando was released after pitching in 2013 for the Marlins’ Dominican summer league team, then worked out with and threw for local men’s league teams in his native Dominican Republic until getting signed by Arizona in June 2018.

“I continued to do my work at home; I just kept believing in God that one day my opportunity would still come,” Ogando said. “Arizona had seen me pitch and gave me that opportunity.”

Cristofer Ogando talks to reporters before making his debut Sunday.

He worked his way to Class A that summer, and the Rays saw enough to take him in the 2018 minor-league Rule 5 draft. Starting at Class A Bowling Green in 2019, and sitting out the canceled 2020 minor-league season, he worked his way to Triple-A this year, where he was 1-1, 3.03 in 21 games.

“I’m very happy,” Ogando said. “And thank God for the opportunity that this team has given me.”

On Sunday, he allowed one run on one hit over two innings, and struck out Dominican star Vlad Guerrero Jr. looking for his first strikeout in the majors.

“That’s got to be pretty cool,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I think he’s older than Vlad Jr., but either way to say that you did that, you’ve got to be doing something well.”

Ogando was all smiles after the game, with the balls from his first pitch and the strikeout eventually headed to his parents and more messages than he could count on his phone.

“I feel really good,” he said. “Thank God I had the opportunity to be out there. Just like always being in the game there’s always that little bit of pressure, but it’s part of the process.”

The Rays added Ogando, who was summoned to join the taxi squad on Saturday, after Ralph Garza Jr. was optioned to Durham.

Pitching shuffle

The Rays are planning a bullpen day for Monday’s holiday matinee in Boston. Lefty Jalen Beeks will be the opener, and there is the potential for a call-up (Josh Fleming?) to work bulk innings. … Lefty Jeffrey Springs, who missed a Thursday start in Toronto due to a family medical emergency, is slated to rejoin the team and start Tuesday in Boston. … Relievers Brooks Raley and Ryan Thompson, who couldn’t go to Toronto because they are unvaccinated, will be reinstated from the restricted list and back in the bullpen Monday. “Excited to have them both back,” Cash said. … Javy Guerra and one other reliever will have to be sent down to make room. … Luis Patino’s fifth rehab start for Durham was limited to three innings Saturday due to a middle finger blister.

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Cash opened his pregame media session with condolences to the Blue Jays and first base coach Mark Budzinski, whose 17-year-old daughter, Julia, died Saturday: “We’re heartbroken as well.” There was a pre-game moment of silence. … Isaac Paredes on Saturday became the second Ray to homer in both games of a doubleheader, joining Ben Zobrist (April 28, 2011, at Minnesota).

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