Game day report, at Orioles
UPDATE, 1:48: The Rays have just said there are only limited seats left for Saturday's home game against the Red Sox.
UPDATE, 1:05: The Rays say they have signed all of their pre-arbitration players, which includes RHP Andy Sonnanstine who was the last remaining candidate to be renewed by the team's noon deadline today.
The deals are all under $500,000 as the Rays follow a relatively strict salary structure working up from the major-league minimum of $400,000.
The only exception is Jeff Niemann, who will make close to $1-million (including a share of his signing bonus) coming off his original five-year, $5-million-plus deal. (And also the players until multi-year deals such as David Price and Evan Longoria.)
The other signings announced today included: Reid Brignac, Wade Davis, Mike Ekstrom, Jeremy Hellickson, John Jaso, Desmond Jennings, Elliot Johnson, Matt Joyce, Jose Lobaton, Jake McGee, Fernando Perez, Sean Rodriguez, Justin Ruggiano, Dale Thayer, Alex Torres and Ben Zobrist.
UPDATE, 11:32: It's only the spring training opener, but there was still a sense of excitement around the Rays as they prepared for batting practice here at freshly orange-trimmed Ed Smith Stadium, the new spring home of the Orioles. "The sense of renewal is there,'' Maddon said.
Maddon admitted he has to remind himself to be patient as he gets back into the managing routine, and even that he was a bit nervous he'd forget something before getting on the bus this morning. "After not having not done it for a couple months you have to get back in the groove just as a player does also,'' he said. "But I'm very excited to get us out there, and the way our guys are going about their business it's extra exciting right now.''
Maddon said Aybar took ground balls with no issues, concern or winces in his left wrist, and also that J.P. Howell will start pitching in games soon.
DEVELOPING: The Rays are gathering in Port Charlotte this morning before one squad heads to Sarasota for the spring opener while the rest work out down here.
One early tidbit, INF Wlly Aybar said his sore left wrist is feeling better enough that he is scheduled to start hitting on Thursday, and hopes to play in his first exhibition sometime next week.
Also, RHP Andy Sonnanstine is waiting to talk to his agent, and then will decide whether to accept the Rays latest offer or have his contract renewed by their noon deadline - it's not much of a difference because as a player who isn't eligible for arbitration he pretty much has to take what they offer, and it's going to be within their salary structure for players of his service class, which means likely less than $450,000.
The lineup for today's game at Ed Smith Stadium looks like this:
D. Johnson, 3b
Shields will likely work one inning, with Matt Garza to follow and possibly work two. A slew of relievers are lined up to follow.
Thursday's home opener in Port Charlotte will feature most of the regulars based on this lineup posted this morning in the clubhouse: