Rays set for Friday - and (more interestingly) Saturday
Update 4:32 pm With a five-run eighth-inning rally - some against the Jays tough righty Jeremy Accardo, no less - the Rays came from behind to beat Toronto, 8-4.
A key part of the comeback was a two-run homer by touted prospect Evan Longoria. Longoria, who came in as a pinch-hitter, ripped a Accardo pitch over the right-centerfield wall. Then, to end the game, he snatched up a hard grounder to his right before throwing Marco Scutaro out at first.
Rays 8, Jays 4 (final)
Update 3:22 pm The Rays are still down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh. Not a ton of action going on. Toronto LHP Scott Downs took over for Litsch, who threw six strong innings and got a nice ovation when he left the game.
Update 2:57 pm RHP Al Reyes has taken over for Jackson. In the sixth, the Jays had a runner on second with one out but SS Reid Brignac made a heck of a play to potentially save a run. On a blooper into shallow left-center, Brignac raced back about 20 yards before making an over the shoulder grab. He spun and nearly doubled off a Jay at second too.
Jays 4, Rays 3
Update 2:36 pm OF John Rodriguez came through with an RBI single in the fourth, scoring Eric Hinske (who had doubled). Rodriguez is getting a strong look from the Rays brass as a potential fifth outfielder, competing with likely Jon Weber.
Weber has had a great last few days, tallying the game-winning hit Wednesday vs the Yankees and hitting a homer Thursday (along with a great throw from leftfield). Now, Rodriguez showed a little something with a clutch hit.
Jays 4, Rays 3
Update 2:28 pm Local product Jesse Litsch, a former Dixie Hollins standout and Rays bat boy, has performed well so far. The righthander is now in his fourth inning, having only given up two runs (on two RBI groundouts).
Jays 4, Rays 2
Update 2:08 pm Jackson's day isn't getting any easier. After he walked Rolen in the top of the third, Rios slammed a two-run homer over the wall in left-center.
Jays 4, Rays 2
Update 2:00 pm The Rays tied the game at 2-2 in their half of the second, loading the bases on singles by Floyd and Navarro (and a walk by Hinske) before John Rodriguez and Reid Brignac had RBI groundouts.
Rays 2, Blue Jays 2
Update 1:40 pm We had a rain-delayed start here at Al Lang Field, but the Rays and Blue Jays began their matchup at 1:25 p.m. with the clouds clearing overhead.
The Blue Jays got an early jump on Rays RHP Edwin Jackson, scoring two runs in the top of the second inning. Jackson, who is competing for one of the final two rotation spots, is coming off a rough outing on Sunday, when he gave up six runs in an inning.
Jays 2, Rays 0
The Rays are preparing to play the Jays on Friday at Progress Energy Park, hoping to beat the rain, but it's their plans for Saturday that are most interesting.
Given the recent controversies with the Yankees, Rays manager Joe Maddon changed plans and will now be in Tampa on Saturday for the split-squad game with the Yankees, sending bench coach Dave Martinez with the other squad going to Disney to play the Braves.
The assignment of players is even more interesting.
Among the players NOT going to Tampa are INF Elliot Johnson, whose collision with a Yankees catcher on March 8 started the exchange; OF Jonny Gomes, who charged after Shelley Duncan as part of Wednesday's festivities; and 3B prospect Evan Longoria, who the Rays say was punched in the head by Yankees OF Melky Cabrera during the brawl.
Among those who ARE going to Tampa: 2B Akinori Iwamura, who was spiked by Duncan on Wednesday; OFs Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, B.J. Upton; SS Jason Bartlett and INFs Eric Hinske and Joel Guzman.
Maddon acknowledged that he changed his plans based on the recent events: "I was going to do the managerial tough guy thing by taking the long bus ride, but based on the situation I had to change it. This is all me. You just look at it, and I just can't not be there for that particular game. From our side we're just going to go play baseball, that's it. But I really felt that I needed to be there.''
Maddon said the player assignments were done in advance, but he acknowledged that he did move Gomes from the Tampa squad to the Disney group for a reason. "There's no reason to send Jon out over there right now, I think it's the wrong thing to do based on the recent events,'' Maddon said. "He'll get his chance to play against them but for right now until this thing settles down I thought it was the appropriate thing to do.''
The Friday lineup:
(John) Rodriguez, rf
Reid Brignac, ss
Edwin Jackson is starting for the Rays, with Kurt Birkins, Trever Miller, Al Reyes, Grant Balfour, Calvin Medlock and Scott Munter also on the card.
Jesse Litsch, the Pinellas Park product and former Rays batboy, will start for Toronto.
The rest of the Toronto lineup: