Spring game report: Rays vs. Pirates (9-5 win)
UPDATE, 4:06: Rays hang on for 9-5 win.
UPDATE, 3:40: Niemann acknowledged it wasn't the prettiest outing, but he was pleased with his work, allowing 9 hits and 5 runs (3 earned) over 6 innings, throwing 106 pitches (79 strikes). "It was little messy out there but it happens and it was good to go through that in the spring,'' Niemann said. "I felt like we kept together pretty well out there on the mound and continued to make pitches. I felt great about today, the curveball and the slider were both there. The fastball was a little bit up but those are adjustments that are easier to make than the breaking ball stuff. Everything considered I felt really good about today.''
UPDATE, 3:38: Rays take the 7-5 lead into the 8th. Longoria said he had a tough at-bat, fouling a ball off his shin and then one off his knee, and then getting hit in the upper thigh/lower buttocks area, but he was fine.
UPDATE, 3:25: Rays take a 7-5 lead on a two-run single by Matt Joyce.
UPDATE, 2:48. And the Rays tie it as Manny Ramirez draws a walk - 5-5 in the fifth.
UPDATE, 2:46: Both teams are sloppy today, as the Rays "rally" back, loading the bases and then scoring when Longoria is hit in the side by a Charlie Morton pitch to make it 5-4. Longoria seemed okay and stayed in the game.
UPDATE, 2:22: Niemann gets in another mess in the fourth, and the Pirates go back ahead 5-3.
UPDATE, 1:55: The action on the back fields was encouraging for the Rays, as Kyle Farnsworth threw a 23-pitch inning in a Class A game with no issues regarding his left knee, which cut short his previous two outings. Farnsworth said it didn't bother him at all. RHP Juan Cruz also worked an inning, throwing 17 pitches. C John Jaso made an unexpected return to action for the first time since being struck in the groin by a foul tip last Saturday, and said he felt good - though still a bit uncomfortable - after catching two innings. He is expected to play in a minor-league game again on Saturday and will bat this time.
UPDATE, 1:53: And just like that, the Rays rally (with help from the also sloppy Pirates) and load the bases, and reserve OF Sam Fuld laces a double down the leftfield line to make it 3-2. Ben Zobrist then delivers a sac fly to score Kelly Shoppach and it's tied 3-3.
UPDATE, 1:50: Most of the action was on the back minor-league fields today, so just getting caught up with the game, as the Pirates lead 3-0 in the second. Jeff Niemann hasn't been sharp, nor has the Rays defense.
UPDATE, 11:03: The Rays just released some details for next Friday's opener at the Trop: Popular saxophonist BK Jackson will perform the national anthem, the St. Pete police dept. will present the colors and there will be a moment of silence for the three slain officers, already announced was that Gov. Rick Scott will throw out the first pitch. Parking lots will open at 2 and gates at 4 for early arrivers. Among changes at the Trop are the additions of fresh burger, wings and gluten-free food stands, and that the Batter's Eye restaurant has been changed to the Everglades BBQ Smokehouse. Also, the 2010 AL East championship banner will be raised just before the game.
UPDATE, 10:25: Maddon said Farnsworth was okay after leaving Thursday's game and is likely to pitch today, but in either case there doesn't appear to be much concern about the two freak-type incidents involving his left knee. ... Jaso went through the morning workout with the team, but Maddon said the bigger test will come Saturday when Jaso is scheduled to catch three innings in a minor-league game, his first time back behind the plate since being hit last Saturday. ... Maddon and RHP Adam Russell both said there was some improvement in his delivery and his slider during Thursday's minor-league outing. Russell said he is feeling fine, eliminating any injury question, and Maddon said they want to see him next in a big-league game, possibly Saturday. Also, Maddon said he was still sorting out the middle of the lineup, but it sounded like against righthanders B.J. would hit sixth, and the question was whether to hit Dan Johnson fifth and Matt Joyce seventh or the other way around. The decision will be based on who is swinging better.
UPDATE, 8:46: C John Jaso still has some discomfort from being hit in groin by foul tip last Saturday, but took BP on Thursday and will participate in full drills today, and is optimistic about being ready for April 1 opener. "We'll see where today takes us but I think I'l be good for the opener,'' he said.
UPDATE, 8:11: Rays lineup, with just about all the big names but Damon and Sean Rodriguez.
And Kyle Farnsworth, who threw only one pitch on Thursday before agitating his left knee, is scheduled to be back on the mound:
E. Johnson 2b
D. Johnson 1b
DEVELOPING: The Rays are facing the Pirates for the sixth time this spring in a 1:05 p.m. game in Port Charlotte.
Today and Saturday are the last two home games of the spring, which also mean the last two days for the Rays to get extensive pre-game work in. They are in Bradenton Sunday, Tampa on Monday night and Fort Myers on Tuesday then play at Tropicana Field on Wednesday in advance of Friday's season opener.
The lineup isn't posted yet in the clubhouse.