ST. PETERSBURG -- Will Rhymes was playing for the Rays' Triple-A affiliate when Tampa Bay visited Detroit in April, so his first game against his old club came Friday night with an unenviable matchup with Justin Verlander.
He didn't get a hit, but he arguably did his job nonetheless. At the very least, he might have helped Desmond Jennings do his job.
Rhymes had a nine-pitch at-bat against Verlander, fouling off five pitches, before striking out swinging on a fastball. It capped a 20-pitch second inning for Verlander, giving him 49 pitches entering the third. He was thinking pitch conservation when he tried to sneak an 89-mph "fastball" past Jennings, who lined it out to left.
Rhymes battled Verlander for 11 pitches leading off the fifth inning, fouling off five two-strike offerings before he grounded out to short. Again, Verlander fell behind Jennings after that and tried to attack him with a fastball that Jennings charged and sent out to left.
Catcher Gerald Laird tipped his cap.
"Rhymes did his job," Laird said. "He may not have showed it, but those two at-bats ... those are just tough at-bats. That's like an inning right there sometimes. He battled him right there. He shortened his swing. We were throwing him quality pitches. He just kept kind of fouling them off.
"We tried everything, and he just kept battling. We were able to get him out, but he pretty much did his job when Verlander took 20 pitches in two at-bats."
They were two long at-bats for Rhymes in a season when his at-bats have actually been shorter than when he was a Tiger. He averaged 4.09 pitches per plate appearance during his month-long stint in Detroit last year, compared with just 3.6 this year, according to baseball-reference.com.