Smyly's return a good sign, but not without hiccups

Smyly's return a good sign, but not without hiccups

ARLINGTON -- Drew Smyly lacked polish on Sunday, but the left-hander did manage to make a healthy return from the 60-day disabled list in the Rays' 5-3 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

"First, it felt great to be back on a Major League field," Smyly said. "It's an honor to pitch, and even though the results weren't there today, it was great. I had an awesome time being back on the mound, and hopefully I can build off that and just move forward."

When Smyly took the mound shortly after 2 p.m. CT, 102 days had passed since his last start. Though his return should provide a boost the Rays' rotation, it will not be remembered as a masterpiece.

The Rays' return gift for Smyly was a 1-0 lead before he threw his first pitch. Unfortunately, Smyly fell behind the first batter he faced, Delino DeShields, and the Rangers' leadoff hitter walked, stole second and scored on Shin-Soo Choo's double. Adrian Beltre added a sacrifice fly to score Choo and give the Rangers a 2-1 lead after one inning.

Choo's RBI double

"Obviously, I was a little inconsistent with my command," Smyly said. "I thought I made some good pitches. Obviously, I got my back up against the wall in the first, walking the leadoff guy and giving up a double to Choo, who is a lefty. I need to get that guy out. But then I thought I did a good job of coming back and getting their three, four, five guys to limit the damage."

The Rays' offense grabbed the lead again with a two-run second, but the Rangers tied the score when DeShields' two-out single drove home a run.

DeShields' RBI single

Adrian Beltre and Ryan Strausborger added solo home runs off Smyly in the third and fourth innings to put the Rangers up, 5-3, and send Smyly to his second loss of the season.

"Third and fourth, gave up a couple of home runs that I left over the plate," Smyly said. "But, I mean, it's a tough game. It's a tough team. I'll just learn from it and try to do better next time."

Strausborger's first MLB homer

Smyly's line show five earned runs on seven hits in four innings. Of the 95 pitches he threw, 61 went for strikes.

"At the 90, 92 pitch mark, the ball was still coming out of his hand well, and that was very encouraging, too," Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said.

Smyly went on the DL on May 9, retroactive to May 6, due to a torn left labrum (shoulder). That stint was his second of the current season as he began the season on the DL and didn't make his first start until April 24 against the Blue Jays.

Smyly made four rehab starts, three for Triple-A Durham and one for Class A Advanced Charlotte, going 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA.

Going forward, the Rays think their rotation is in a better place with Smyly in it.

"It was important that he felt good, which he did," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He got his pitches in. I thought even his last inning he looked like his fastball, everything was playing very well. So that's a good sign.

"His offspeed stuff was a little bit around the zone. You could tell he was burying some breaking balls a little bit up front. That's probably to be expected a little bit. I think I would anticipate, we all would, that Drew will benefit from this and bounce right back and be ready to go."

While the rotation is missing the likes of Alex Cobb and Matt Moore, Hickey likes the group they have.

"I feel good overall," Hickey said. "We certainly need to perform a little better. This is certainly disappointing in this month where we've swung the bats considerably better than we have and failed to capitalize on that. For the most part, that's due to the pitching. So we need to step it up a little bit, but it needs to start tomorrow."

As for Smyly, he's happy to have Sunday's start in his rearview mirror.

"Obviously I was a little rusty," said Smyly, who will make his next start Friday in Oakland. "Had a lot of nerves. Felt like it was my first game all over again. It's not an excuse. ... I'm excited I got this one, I walked away healthy and I'm looking forward to pitching in Oakland on Friday."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.