Rays-Twins from Fort Myers
Update, 3:25 Twins win 4-2, Rays manager Joe Maddon says that despite the three errors the Rays played well and Shields and Munter pitched well.
Update 2:43 Scott Munter isn't faring too well either, as the Twins have three more hits off him in the last two innings though it's still 4-1.
Update 2:22 Shields is done after four innings, having allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits and two hit batters. Twins CF Carlos Gomez left the game with with cramping in his left hamstring. It's 4-1 Twins through five innings.
Update, 2:03 The Rays released plans to celebrate their final spring training game in St. Petersburg on Friday, including a free postgame barbecue for all fans, a pre-game Air Force flyover and presentation of their all-time Al Lang team. Hall of Famer Monte Irvin will sign autographs from 11-12:15, and two great nephews of Al Lang, John and Hugh Fagen, will be among the honored guests. A limited number of berm and grandstand seats remain available.
Update 1:54 Shields continues to have issues - he just hit his second batter, has allowed four hits and it's only top of the third. And CF Elliot Johnson just made two errors on the same play - mishandling a base hit, then throwing errantly past third to allow another run to score, so it's now 3-1.
Update 1:48 How's this for play of the day - Twins pitcher Livan Hernandez couldn't field Elliot Johnson's bunt, so he kicked it over to first where Justin Morneau made a glove save for the out.
Update 1:33 James Shields is lierally just getting his work in to prep for Monday's opening day start, and it hasn't gone well as he gave up three hits (and two runs, one on an error by 1B Chris Richard) in the first and a couple hard-hit balls in the second.
Update, 12:30 Manager Joe Maddon's pre-game media session yielded a few tidbits of news:
* Edwin Jackson will be the No. 4 starter, and pitch the April 4 series opener in New York, and Jason Hammel will be No. 5. Jackson has had the better spring, but Maddon said there was "no particular reason" for the decision.
* 3B Willy Aybar remains limited with a sore left hamstring but Maddon said he still thinks Aybar will be ready to go for Monday's opener in Baltimore. He said Aybar might be ready to play Thursday in Winter Haven when just about the full roster makes the trip.
* Team officials have a pretty good idea of what they want to do with their final roster - assuming there are no trades or waiver acquisitons - in all but one position, which sounds like the final bullpen spot that is being contested by Grant Balfour and Scott Dohmann. Though Maddon wouldn't say, it appears as things stand now that the bench jobs would be held by INFs Joel Guzman and Elliot Johnson, OF/INF Eric Hinske and C Shawn Riggans.
The Rays left early for Fort Myers for Wednesday's game with the Twins, and many of the regulars didn't go as the Rays continue to assess candidates for backup roles. Starters that are playing include are SS Jason Bartlett, an ex-Twin; 2B Akinori Iwamura, and RF/DH Jonny Gomes.
One guy missing is 3B Willy Aybar, the expected starter for opening day. Aybar, who is nursing a sore left hamstring, isn't making the trip and won't play for the fourth straight day. Manager Joe Maddon had said Tuesday there was a chance Aybar could play today, but he was thinking about holding him out until Thursday against the Indians (and Aybar is on the travel squad to go to Winter Haven).
Elliot Johnson will get another look at centerfifeld, as he tries to make the team in the utility role. Eric Hinske - also competing for a bench job - will be in right.
RHP James Shields, the opening day starter, will get his last tuneup before Monday's opener. Also on the trip to pitch are Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell and Scott Munter.