Rays lose spring opener to Reds
UPDATE: 3:57: It's now final. The Rays lose their spring training opener, 7-0.
UPATE: 3:47: Mitch Talbot just gave up a two-run homer. Rays now trail 7-0.
UPDATE, 3:35: The Rays had only two hits and were being shutout into the eighth, but Justin Ruggiano just doubled to right-center. Jon Weber popped out to end the eighth.
UPDATE, 3:27: Ex-Ray Jonny Gomes is batting for the second time, having flown out to right earlier. He grounded out to third but, typical Jonny, hustled hard down the line to make it close.
UPDATE, 3:15: LHP J.P. Howell is working the seventh, the only one of the returning Rays pitchers to get work this early since he is leaving Sunday to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic. He gave up a leadoff single, but just got two infield outs and a strikeout to avoid any trouble.
UPDATE, 3:11: Just heard that ex-Ray Rocco Baldelli will be on the Red Sox traveling squad for Friday's game, and likely will be the DH.
UPDATE, 3:06: Among the faces in the crowd today, former Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli, plus his wife Lenda and her twin sister Glenda. "It's a beautiful park,'' Naimoli said, wearing a Rays old logo cap. "A lot better than when the Rangers were here.''
UPDATE, 2:37: The Reds just went ahead 4-0 when Jerry Hairston Jr. crushed a pitch from Randy Choate onto the leftfield boardwalk for a grand slam. An error by 3B Chris Nowak led to the fifth run.
UPDATE, 2:15: Hammel gave up three consecutive singles with one out in the fourth, but avoided giving up a run when CF Fernando Perez threw out Joey Votto at the plate and Encarnacion popped up.
UPDATE, 2:13: Rays senior VP Michael Kalt said everything BUT the traffic flow has gone smoothly, and that team officials will meet after today's game with Charlotte County officials and the Charlotte County Sheriff's Dept. to address the parking issue. "It will be better on Friday,'' Kalt said.
UPDATE, 1:50: RHP Jason Hammel responded with a pretty strong inning of his own, with a flyout and two strikeouts. And the traffic is STILL backed up along El Jobean Road leading to the stadiun. Radio dude Whitney Johnson, of WDAE, said it took him an 1 hour and 40 minutes to get the final two miles, from the intersection of US 41 and Toledo Blade Road, to the stadium.
UPDATE, 1:33: LHP Carlos Hernandez, a wild-card candidate for the No. 5 starter's spot, worked two crisp innings for the Rays. Carl Crawford for their first hit of the spring, a single to left, and Gabe Gross made their first error, misplaying a sinking liner by Edwin Encarnacion. Traffic is STILL backed up on El Jobean Road leading to the stadium, and the wait is getting longer.
UPDATE, 12:20: Fans are starting to fill up the Charlotte Sports Park stadium, on what truly looks like a glorious opening day. There are about 30 minutes of pre-game festivities planned, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony at home with principal owner Stuart Sternberg and Charlotte County commissioners, introductions of both starting lineups, and ceremonial first pitches by the Charlotte commissioners.
Also, members of the St. Petersburg City Council are here, at invitation of the Rays to see the place.
Rays players had their meeting with union chief Don Fehr before the game, so they didn't get to take batting practice on the field.
Former longtime Ray Jonny Gomes is here, and among other things said he was glad he got to experience last year's success before moving on. He is hoping for a good shot at the Reds leftfield job, or at least a reserve role.
Traffic is backed up a bit on Toledo Blade Road, with it taking some fans more than 32 minutes to go the 8-9 miles from the Interstate 75 to the parking lots.
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Here are the starting lineups for today's game:
Willy Taveras, cf
Jerry Hairston Jr., ss
Joey Votto, 1b
Brandon Phillips, 2b
Jay Bruce, rf
Edwin Encarnacion, 3b
Chris Dickerson, lf
Ramon Hernandez, c
Jacque Jones, dh
Edinson Volquez, rhp
Jason Bartlett, ss
Carl Crawford, lf
Evan Longoria, 3b
Pat Burrell, dh
Willy Aybar, 1b
Dioner Navarro, c
Ben Zobrist, 2b
Gabe Gross, rf
Fernando Perez, cf
Carlos Hernandez, lhp
Two former Rays are on the Reds travel squad OF Jonny Gomes and INF Wes Bankston.