The Rays swept their split-squad games Saturday, beating the Blue Jays in Port Charlotte and the Pirates in Bradenton.
Both were by the score of 6-3.
There was a bit of a scare in the Rays game in Bradenton, as RF Wil Myers left the game in the third inning after fouling a pitch off his right quad. But the Rays were enouraged it was only a bruise, and he's day-to-day. Myers said if it were a regular-season game, he would have stayed in.
The other big storyline was the fifth starter competition, with all three remaining candidates pitching Saturday. LHP Erik Bedard picked up the win in Port Charlotte, saying he pitched "okay," needing to be more consistent with his off-speed. RHP Jake Odorizzi started in Bradenton, saying he was happy how he bounced back from a two-walk first inning, believing he's made a solid case to be the fifth starter. LHP Cesar Ramos relieved Odorizzi and picked up the save after 5 1/3 innings.
Rays relievers Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta pitched well in their one-inning stints in Port Charlotte.
Offensively, Mikie Mahtook led the way in Port Charlotte with his grand slam. In Bradenton, Jerry Sands continued his hot spring with a two-run single. …Full Story
Update 3:42 p.m. Rays rightfielder Wil Myers seemed encouraged by his bruised right quad, saying it was sore, and likely will be for a few days, but won't keep him out long.
"I probably would have stayed in if it were a regular season game that meant something," Myers said. "But just want to be cautious about something like this."
Myers admitted, however, it was startling when the injury first occurred, fouling a pitch off his inner leg.
"As soon as it happened, the initial pain kind of scared me," Myers said. "But right now, it's fine. It is sore and will still be sore in the morning. We'll see how tomorrow goes."
As odd as it is for a right-handed hitter to foul a pitch off their right quad, Myers said he's done it three times in his career. Myers said it'll depend on how he feels Sunday when he wakes up when he plays again, but doesn't think it'll be long.
"Might play tomorrow, who knows?" he said.
Developing: Rays rightfielder Wil Myers left today's game against the Pirates in pain after fouling a pitch off his right leg in the third inning.
The Rays say Myers suffered a right quad contusion and was removed as a precaution. …Full Story
Update 11:35 a.m. RHP Juan Carlos-Oviedo was excited to finally arrive in Rays camp Saturday, saying he was frustrated for the lengthy delay due to visa issues.
Oviedo said he's been throwing regularly in the Dominican Republic, but not to hitters, so he hopes to do that soon. But Oviedo feels he can be ready for Opening Day Mar. 31.
Manager Joe Maddon, as expected, said the Rays will be "cautious" with Oviedo, as he's been throwing a lot without any attention by the medical staff. Oviedo will throw a bullpen session today, and possibly throw to hitters Monday.
*The Rays will continue to evaluate the fifth starter competition with LHP Erik Bedard, RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Cesar Ramos each pitching today. There's a chance each could get another turn before the decision is made.
*Bench coach Davey Martinez predicts this will be the season CF Desmond Jennings finally puts it together and has a big year with "big numbers." Martinez has seen Jennings increased maturity, and believes he has all the tools. …Full Story
Our video report and photo gallery from the Rays Thursday win over the Pirates. Video by Will Vragovic.Full Story
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays, coming off a few impressive spring outings.
Update 11:37 a.m. Former Rays CF B.J. Upton got to catch up with some old teammates and hug manager Joe Maddon before today's game, saying it's natural to miss guys you spend 10 years of your life with.
Upton still has a strong attachment to the Rays, and still has a place in Tampa (planning to build a house on Bayshore), saying he watched them in their one-game playoffs last season. Upton hopes to play like he did with the Rays, as opposed to the miserable 2013 season when he hit .187. He said he tried anything and everything, but feels he's in a much better place now.
*RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo is expected to arrive in Florida today and be at Rays camp Saturday. Maddon said Oviedo could pitch in a game as early as Sunday, if not Tuesday, and could make 4-5 appearances. While Oviedo still could be ready for Opening Day, Maddon points out he's right on the line.
*Maddon said the decision should become clearer on the fifth starter spot after Saturday's outing by the final three candidates, though noting that they could each make another appearance before it's official. …Full Story
UPDATE, 8:49: While some Rays also will go through drills in Port Charlotte today, a small group will work out at the Trop to get a feel for the new batter's eye backdrop.
Also, LHP Jake McGee will throw in a minor-league game in Port Charlotte today.
DEVELOPING: The Rays are on the road today, facing the Braves - and old friend B.J. Upton - at the Disney Complex.
RHP Chris Archer, who has looked very sharp in spring starts vs. the Red Sox and Yankees, will be on the mound for the Rays.
The lineup looks like this:Full Story
J. Moore DH
The Rays further reduced their spring roster on Thursday, sending eight more players to the minors, including RHP Nathan Karns, who had been competing for the No. 5 starter's job.
Also optioned to Triple-A Durham were RHP Kirby Yates, LHPs Jeff Beliveau and C.J. Riefenhauser, INFs Vince Belnome and Hak-Ju Lee, and OF Kevin Kiermaier. OF Mikie Mahtook was reassigned to minor-league camp.
Karns showed well after being acquired from Washington just before the start of camp, and the Rays feel he will be of future help but was not ready yet. His departure leaves LHPs Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos, and RHP Jake Odorizzi competing for the open spot.
Lee showed he was healthy after missing most of last season following a knee injury.
Rays LHP Matt Moore talks about being better Thursday than in his previous outing, but still not as sharp as he hopes to be.
RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo is finally set to report to Rays camp.
Agent Andy Mota said Oviedo's waiver was approved on Thursday and he is expected to make it to camp on Friday or Saturday.
Oviedo is expected to play a key role in the Rays bullpen, and manager Joe Maddon said this week he still felt Oviedo had a chance to be on the opening day roster because he had been throwing regularly in the Dominican Republic.
He hasn't pitched in the majors since Sept. 2011, due to identify fraud issues and then Tommy John surgery. HeFull Story
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
David Price will be the opening day starter for the third time in his career.
It was hardly in question as long as he was still with the team, but David Price today was officially named the Rays opening day starter.
Price will be the opening day starter for the third time.
There was considerable speculation throughout the off-season that Price would be traded, but the Rays kept him and manager Joe Maddon said it's obvious how pleaed he is to have him.
"All I know is this,'' Maddon said, "when you see him here now I try to visualize him not being here now and the different feeling that would engender. And it would be an entirely different feeling without him being here. So it's really good to have him back.
"You have to play that mind game with yourself, what would it be like if he wasn't here. Not nearly the vibe that we have going on right now.''
Maddon said RHP Alex Cobb also "definitely is very worthy" of an opening day assignment.
Also, that even though the rest of the rotation seems to be in order - with the No. 5 to be named - Maddon said they are "still looking at a couple little different things that may impact the first month of the season.''
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Matt Moore will be on the mound today looking to rebound from a rough outing on Saturday.
The Rays are back in Port Charlotte today to take on the Pirates with LHP Matt Moore on the mound looking to rebound from a rough outing on Saturday.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson said he felt good the day after his first throwing session following Jan. 29 elbow surgery.
Here is the Rays lineup:
And the Pirates lineup:Full Story
The Rays beat the Jays 5-4 Wednesday in front of a sellout crowd at Florida Auto Exchange Park in Dunedin.
OF Jerry Sands hit the go-ahead homer in the top of the ninth, his third of the spring. OF Jeremy Moore also hit his third homer, a mammoth shot in the fourth that cleared the 36-foot batter's eye in center.
Ben Zobrist went 0-for-2 with a walk and strikeout as designated hitter, but more importantly said he felt good in the process, and will play second base Thursday against the Pirates.
RHP Mark Lowe, competing for the final bullpen spot, was impressive in a 1 2/3 inning stint, striking out three, charged with one run. His cutter was a good pitch today, with Maddon saying if he can use that and his slider, he can be really effective.
RHP Josh Lueke, however, struggled, allowing three runs in two innings, including a two-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion.
CF Desmond Jennings had two hits and a stolen base.
The Rays return home Thursday to face the Pirates.Full Story
After feeling flat and a bit of "dead arm" in his last outing Saturday, Rays RHP Grant Balfour felt markedly better after throwing 15 pitches in a minor-league game against the Orioles on Wednesday in Port Charlotte.
"I felt really good, felt strong,'' Balfour said. "I'm really, really happy with how it went."
Balfour received some treatment on his arm and got an extra day's rest, and said the results were significant. He also made a decision to ramp up his focus and intensity a bit and said that also helped as well.
Rays RHP Joel Peralta followed Balfour with a solid 13-pitching inning, his first time back on the mound after leaving Saturday's game with a stiff neck. And No. 2 starter RHP Alex Cobb threw 68 pitches (46 strikes) over four-plus innings in another minor-league game.
Balfour said he was pleased with his velocity - consitently in the low 90s while "throwing into a headwind" - and that his fastball had "good late life, which is a really good sign" and that his breaking ball had tight break.
Balfour faced three batters, allowing one hit, striking out one, with nine strikes among his 15 pitches. …Full Story
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Nathan Karns, a long-shot candidate for the fifth starter spot, will be making the start for the Rays.
The Rays will be facing the Jays today in Dunedin, as long as the rain holds off on this cloudy day.
For updates throughout the game, follow @TBTimes_JSmith on Twitter.
RHP Nathan Karns, a long-shot candidate for the fifth starter spot, will be making the start against a formidable Jays lineup that includes Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Ben Zobrist, having been sidelined with a stiff neck, is expected to start as DH. Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce will also be here.
There's a busy morning at Port Charlotte, with RHP Alex Cobb and RHP Grant Balfour scheduled to throw in a minor league game. RHP Jeremy Hellickson played catch for the first time since elbow surgery and was encouraged with how good it felt.
Here's the lineups for today's game
Rays lineupFull Story
WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
Jeremy Hellickson on Wednesday had his first throwing session since Jan. 29 elbow surgery and said it went well.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson on Wednesday had his first throwing session since Jan. 29 elbow surgery and said it went well.
"Very encouraging,'' Hellickson said. "It felt really good.''
Hellickson made 25 throws at distances of 45-to-60 feet Wednesday, six weeks to the day after Dr, Koco Eaton removed "loose bodies" from his elbow in an arthroscopic procedure.
"It went really well,'' he said. "It felt like I thought. It's been feeling really good, but you never know until you actually get out there and start throwing. So it's very encouraging that it's felt as good as it has.''
Hellickson will continue throwing on an every other day basis and said in a "best-case scenario" he will return to the rotation in late May with a target of being back by June 1.
"This is a big step in the process, getting out there to throw after six weeks off,'' he said. "This and the day I come back (to pitch in a game) are probably the two biggest things.''