Odorizzi dominates in second start off DL

Right-hander gave up just three hits over seven innings vs. Toronto

Odorizzi dominates in second start off DL

ST. PETERSBURG -- After a slight pause to begin the season, Jake Odorizzi has resumed the excellence he showed at the end of the 2016 season.

Saturday afternoon, Odorizzi shut down the Blue Jays in a 6-1 win, allowing one run on three hits in seven innings to pick up his second win of the season.

"I'm just trying to be unpredictable," Odorizzi said. "Mixing locations, pitches, everything pretty well. Pitching backwards -- we needed to -- and getting ahead. It was a good game plan we executed. We see those guys all the time, so you have to keep changing things up on them. It's always a back-and-forth game."

Odorizzi ended the 2016 season on a roll. After the All-Star break, he went 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 14 starts. The pause button got hit on April 15 at Boston when he was removed one pitch into the second inning due to a left-hamstring strain.

Odorizzi made a triumphant return from the DL on Monday against the Marlins when he allowed two runs in five innings, and got removed from the game at that point because Rays manager Kevin Cash and company felt as though 78 pitches were enough for his first time back.

"Story of the game, obviously was Odorizzi to bounce back, second start coming back from the DL," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He looked like he was in midseason form. Really keeping guys off balance, especially after the first-inning homer. Just did a tremendous job."

Saturday he appeared in control throughout his outing.

"He was throwing a lot of strikes with four pitches and he was getting ahead and able to expand," said Derek Norris, his batterymate on Saturday. "Earlier when we were going over the hitters before the game started, we were trying to force early contact. Especially [the Blue Jays], they're an aggressive team.

"Just trying to keep his pitch count down because our bullpen's a little banged up now. And just execute early and then we could expand. And he did exactly that. He threw the ball really well."

Odorizzi's outing was his longest since Sept. 12, 2016, at Toronto. He retired 10 of his last 11 batters faced. The only run the Blue Jays scored came via Ezequiel Carrera's solo home run in the first.

"Jake can pitch," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "I knew him a little bit when I was in Kansas City when they picked him up from Milwaukee and you could always tell he was going to be a good one. Ever since he got here, he just kind of refined some things.

"He moves the ball around, he can throw different pitches at you and he can elevate when he needs to. He's just one of the better pitchers out there. That's what he is: He's a pitcher. He's not going to necessarily blow you away, and he really throws anything at you any time."

In addition to getting a win for the Rays, Odorizzi helped out the Rays' over-used bullpen by going deep.

"I talked a few times with our bullpen being overused here lately and that we've been going short in starts," Odorizzi said. "It's nice to go out there and say, 'I want to go deep in games,' and then go do it to take the pressure off. Hopefully it's a nice little string. [Matt] Andriese started it the other day, so hopefully we can get those guys some rest since we'll need them late in the year."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.