Aybar back; Rays ready for Phillies
4:12 p.m. RHP Troy Percival said everything felt good in his one-inning debut Thursday. He said located his fastballs and breaking balls well in the nine-pitch session, felt fine coming off the mound.
"I threw strikes I accomplished everything I wanted to do," Percival said. "I threw four offspeed pitches, and five fastballs and I hit my spots with them."
"It was a step, I was actually forcing myself to mentally throttle back and throw my pitches, but I'd let a couple go, so the next time I’ll do a litte bit more. I'm gonna take it a step at a time."
RHP Grant Balfour said the same, physically feeling "great" six days after getting hit in the forearm with a line drive. He said he felt he "just missed" with some pitches that were close. Manager Joe Maddon also pointed out that they wanted him to mix in more breaking balls - which Balfour did - which led to some of the result.
4:10 p.m. Rays hold on to win 3-2
2:50 p.m. Balfour has had a rocky start in the seventh, loading the bases on a hit and two walks (along with a wild pitch).
The only run Balfour gave up was a sacrifice fly to Ryan Howard, but with two outs - after another walk - Maddon pulled the hard-throwing righthander, relieved by LH Randy Choate.
Rays 3, Phillies 1
2:41 p.m. RHP Grant Balfour has entered the game in the seventh, making his first appearance since getting hit with a line drive in the right forearm on Saturday.
RHP Dan Wheeler had pitched the sixth, throwing a hitless inning.
2:01 p.m. RHP Troy Percival has just come out for the fifth inning, and will make his spring debut.
Percival looked good in his opening inning, throwing breaking balls over for strikes. He retired the Phillies - including Ryan Howard, Geoff Jenkins and Greg Dobbs - in order, getting both Howard and Jenkins to hit slow hoppers in front of the plate (which Dioner Navarro fielded).
With Dobbs, Percival covered first on a grounder to Carlos Pena.
Percival threw just nine pitches, and was relieved in the sixth by Dan Wheeler.
1:51 p.m. James Shields just completed his fourth scoreless inning, with the only hit he gave up a slapped single to rightfield by Miguel Cairo.
That stayed a single, however, when RF Gabe Gross made a great throw to get Cairo out at second base trying to stretch to a double.
Rays 2, Phillies 0
1:28 p.m. The Rays tagged on another run in the second. Ex-Phil Pat Burrell led off with a single, moved to second on a Gabe Kapler single, and scored on a double by Gabe Gross.
Rays 2, Phils 0
1:22 p.m. RHP James Shields, making his second spring start, threw a quick - and impressive - two innings against several Phillies regulars.
Shields gave up no hits, and struck out Ryan Howard in the second inning.
1:09 p.m. Carl Crawford got the Rays started in the first, doubling off LHP Jamie Moyer, stealing third and scoring on a sac fly by Evan Longoria.
Rays 1, Phillies 0
INF Willy Aybar said he clearly wasn't expecting to be back to Rays camp so soon from the World Baseball Classic.
"Never," he said.
But Aybar's Dominican Republic team was shockingly upset by the Netherlands, so he was back Thursday, and undoubtedly will be getting some friendly chiding from teammates. Aybar said the mood in the Dominican clubhouse afterward was "great sadness."But Aybar thinks another word will describe how his native country feels about the early exit.
"They probably feel more anger than anything."
In other news, RHP Grant Balfour is expected to pitch today (he's feeling better after getting hit by a line drive in the right forearm at Saturday's game).
Still waiting for the arrival of OF Fernando Perez, and should have update on the status of his injured left wrist.
-- JOE SMITH