Shields takes Kazmir's place
Jonny Gomes, left, signs autographs for fans as he heads into the clubhouse after the Rays last workout at the Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg. [James Borchuck, Times]
RHP James Shields will move into injured LHP Scott Kazmir's slot for Saturday's home exhibition opener, and thus becomes on schedule to start the March 31 season opener assuming Kazmir isn't ready.
That's the biggest news thus far of what is a chilly morning and a short work day Thursday for the Rays as they wrap up the Naimoli complex portion of spring training, with the team moving its spring camp to Port Charlotte next year.
The plans for Friday's exhibition opener in Sarasota are being finalized, but based on the travel squad posted in the clubhouse they're bringing most of the big boys: 2B Akinori Iwamura, SS Jason Bartlett, 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Carlos Pena, LF Carl Crawford, CF B.J. Upton and RF Jonny Gomes.
Scheduled pitchers for the Rays include three of the top candidates for the two open spots in the roation: Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel and Andy Sonnanstine, plus Grant Balfour, Chad Orvella and Sarasota product James Houser.
Manager Joe Maddon said the Reds had not agreed to adopt the DH rule - as some NL teams do, especially for early spring games - so that means the Rays pitchers will at least have to bring their bats, though with pinch-hitters may not have to use them. The Reds are starting Homer Bailey.
Also, top draft LHP David Price said he saw Dr. Koco Eaton on Wednesday and there are no concerns about the shoulder stiffness that kept him from pitching in Tuesday's intrasquad. Price said he will resume throwing soon.
Also scheduled to pitch for the Rays on Saturday after Shields are RHP Mitch Talbot, RHP Al Reyes, LHP Trever Miller and RHP Dan Wheeler.
RHP Jeff Niemann, one of the Rays' top prospects, will start Sunday in Bradenton, followed by RHP Jae Kuk Ryu, RHP Scott Munter, LHP Kirt Birkins and RHP Wade Davis. RHP Matt Garza will start Monday and Jackson again on Tuesday.