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Rays, Sox play to 3-3 tie, Duncan still sees no wrong




Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Red Sox at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers. [Amanda Inscore, special to the Times]

Update 4:45 Took a while, but the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Mitch Talbot gave up a 9th-inning homer to Brandon Moss, and the teams traded runs in the 10th and agreed to end it there. The Rays scored in the 10th when Elliot Johnson - continuing to make an impression - walked, went to third on Eric Hinske's single and scored on Chris Richard's sac fly - and, no, there was no collision at the plate. The Sox evened it up off Kurt Birkins, who hit Joe Thurston to start the inning then gave up a double.

Update 3:34 Rays 2-1 in ninth.

Update 3:22 Two interesting pitching notes from the clubhouse - Garza said some slight mechanical adjustments he made with pitching coach Jim Hickey paid off in a big way, and Howell was used in relief by design as the Rays apparently are considering him for the long man role. Also, Elliot Johnson is in the game at shortstop as the Rays continue to explore options for the backup spot with Ben Zobrist injured. The advantage Johnson has over the more experience Andy Cannizaro is that he is on the 40-man roster to the Rays wouldn't have to burn a spot to add Cannizaro for the short time (maybe 10 days) Zobrist is likely to miss.

Update 3:19
The Sox took advantage of the error to tie the game at 1-1 in the seventh, but the Rays went back ahead in the top of the eighth when Jon Weber reached on an error, moved up when Elliot Johnson came up big again with a double and, after Eric Hinske walked, scored on Guzman's double-play grounder. Mitch Talbot is pitching for the Rays in the bottom of the eighth.

Update 2:58 Rays still lead 1-0 in the seventh as LHP J.P. Howell works. Joel Guzman, who the Rays are hoping can handle some outfield work, dropped a fly ball.

Update 2:21 Garza came out to pitch the fifth, and continues to look good. He just left with 2 outs in the fifth, having allowed four hits for the day. Garza threw 71 pitches (47 strikes) in his best outing of the spring, striking out two and walking one.

Update 2:03 Garza worked four strong innings, allowing a third-inning single by Alex Cora, then a fourth inning double by Manny Ramirez and a single by Mike Lowell. Weber impressed again with a strong throw from the LF corner to second, though Ramirez nimbly - that's two words you don't often see together - got around Iwamura's tag. And the inning ended when CF B.J. Upton threw home and Ramirez opted not to run over C Dioner Navarro or slide and was tagged out. Rays still lead 1-0.

Update 1:41 Jon Weber continues to take advantage of his opportunity to fill the open outfield spot  by homering in the second to put the Rays up 1-0. Matt Garza has looked sharp for his first two innings and is ready for a third.

Update, 1:13: The Sox released veteran C Doug Mirabelli, which is good news for Tampa's Kevin Cash, who now is in position to take over as the personal catcher for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Also, the Sox reassigned former Rays reliever Jon Switzter to minor-league camp. The Rays loaded the bases in the first against Colon but didn't score. 

Update, 12:46: Sox just scratched C Doug Mirabelli and said Dusty Brown would catch.

As the Rays and Red Sox are getting ready to get started on a beautiful day in Fort Myers in their only meeting of the spring, Yankees INF Shelley Duncan maintains he still didn't do anything wrong with his slide into Akinori Iwamura on Wednesday, saying "I still don't understand" why the Rays were as upset as they were.

As if the Red Sox don't do well enough in Boston, there is quite the scene at City of Palms Park, where every game is sold out, and fans stand in long lines to buy even more Red Sox gear. And on top of that, they charge $7 for visiting media to park. (Yes, boss, I have a receipt.)

There has been no word key from MLB on the incidents from Wednesday's game beyond the standard comment that it was "under review.'' Rays manager Joe Maddon basically stuck to his position from Wednesday, that what the Yankees Shelley Duncan did was wrong, and that what Jonny Gomes did to protect Akinori Iwamura was not so wrong.

In Tampa this morning, Duncan continued to maintain innocence. "I saw it a couple times," Duncan said Thursday. "I still don't understand why they were as upset as they were."

Also, he said: "The words that come from another team don't affect me. It doesn't bother me. They won't change how I play the game. I'll continue to play the game as hard as I can. What matters to me the most is the respect of my coaching staff and my teammates."

Iwamura said he had a 3-4'' cut on the inside of his right leg, but didn't need stitches and was fine to play today.

The Rays got good news on LHP Scott Kazmir this morning as he looked good in a batting practice session, but don't know as of now on LHP Brian Anderson, who was to undergo an MRI after feeling something come loose in his left elbow during Wednesday's game.

Here are the lineups, and Boston's is rather loaded:
Iwamura 2b
Bartlett SS
Pena 1B
Upton CF
Gomes DH
Rodriguez RF
Longoria 3B
Navarro C
Weber LF
Matt Garza is the starter, with J.P. Howell and Mitch Talbot also scheduled for work.

Red Sox
Ellsbury, cf
Pedroia, 2b
Ortiz, dh
Ramirez, lf
Lowell, 3b
Drew, rf
Casey, 1b
Mirabelli , c Brown
Cora, ss
Bartolo Colon will make his debut for the Red Sox after signing a minor-league deal. Also scheduled to work are Kyle Snyder (of Sarasota), Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez, Julian Tavarez (who started a brawl with the Rays two springs ago), and Bryan Corey.

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:34am]


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