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For starters, Rays at Pirates - 1:05



UPDATE, 4:09: RHP Jason Hammel was pretty upset with himself after struggling in Monday's start- giving up four runs on six hits with five walks - an outing he labeled "pretty ugly - every meaning of the word ugly."

Hammel, one of the top candidates for the fifth starter spot, struggled with his fastball command and wasn't aggressive as he was early in camp.

"Sums up in one word, basically unacceptable," Hammel said. "For a rotation hopeful, that's defintely not what you're supposed to get. .. The guy that I was in the first few starts and appearances wasn't there today, I wasn't aggressive, I was nitpicking, trying to pick the corners and just wasn't aggressive.

Maddon said the Rays "havent' made up our minds yet" on the No. 5 spot; he said they're looking at RHP Jeff Niemann "very seriously," with him starting Wednesday.

"I'm telling you, we want guys that throw strikes," Maddon said. " We have a team that plays defense and you want your pitchers to put the ball in play. Yes, we're looking at Niemann very seriously and again with Jason, he and I have had this conversation we're having right now, we got tp throw more strikes with the fastball."

UPDATE, 4:06: Maddon said the minor league game Upton was supposed to play defense in today was rained out, so he'll return to game action Tuesday (on the team's off day), participating in a game in Port Charlotte. Upton did take batting practice and "swung the bat well" according to Maddon.

LHP Scott Kazmir will also pitch in a minor league game in Port Charlotte.

UPDATE, 4:00 Rays lose 4-1 to the Pirates.

UPDATE, 3:17 Lance Cormier threw two scoreless innings, and is now replaced by RHP Joe Nelson...

UPDATE, 3:06 Adam Kennedy has moved to shortstop for the sixth inning, another step in him growing into that super-utility guy Joe Maddon wants.

UPDATE, 3:01. RHP Lance Cormier gave up a leadoff double to Adam LaRoche in the fifth, but stranded him at third.

UPDATE, 2:40. Hammel gave up two more runs in the fourth, with Jack Wilson lining another double to left.

Hammel just doesn't seem to have his best stuff today, and has worked his way out of jams. He's done after four innings, having given up four runs on six hits. He's been replaced by RHP Lance Cormier.  

UPDATE, 2:25 Hammel got in a little jam in the third, but kept the Pirates off the board thanks to a great defensive play by RH Justin Ruggiano.

Ruggiano charged an Eric Hinske single, and threw a Pirates runner out at the plate with a one-hopper to Navarro, just to the left of home plate.

Pirates 2, Rays 0

UPDATE, 1:47 The Pirates scored two in the second, with the rally sparked by ex-Ray Eric Hinske.

Hinske tripled to centerfield, his long fly ball just getting out of the reach of Gabe Kapler. He scored on a groundout by Brandon Moss. Jack Wilson and pitcher Zach Duke doubled him in with two outs.

Pirates 2, Rays 0

UPDATE, 1:24: RHP Jason Hammel, vying for the fifth starter spot, has struggled with his command early on, walking the first two batters in the first inning.

Looks familiar to Hammel's last start. Pirates leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan also second after walking (Hammel gave up three stolen bases his last start, and said he needed to work on controlling the running game).

But also like he did in his last start, Hammel bounced back, striking the next two hitters out, and Navarro threw out Morgan trying to steal third to end the threat.

UPDATE, 12:44: First pitch has been moved back to 1:15 p.m.

It's been raining off and on all morning, but is just drizzling now.

UPDATE, 11:24: CF B.J. Upton said his left hand is feeling "a lot better," and is slated to play in the outfield today in a minor league game in Port Charlotte, where he'll also run the bases.

Upton was also planning to take batting practice today for the first time since getting hit with a pitch in a minor league game Saturday.

Manager Joe Maddon said the plan is for Upton to hit and play defense in a minor league exhibition Wednesday, and Upton could play on back to back days Saturday and Sunday. Maddon said Upton may or may not play in a big league exhibition before camp breaks, and, as of now, isn't likely to make the trip to Philadelphia for the final two exhibition games in early April.

The Rays also set a pitching schedule for the rest of this week:

Tuesday: LHP Scott Kazmir in a minor league game in Sarasota

Wednesday: RHP Matt Garza in the Triple-A game in Port Charlotte. RHP Jeff Niemann in the big-league game at night against the Pirates.

Thursday: RHP Andy Sonnanstine

Friday; RHP James Shields

Saturday: RHP Jason Hammel

Sunday: LHP Scott Kazmir 

UPDATE, 10:14: Ex-Ray Eric Hinske is in the lineup for the Pirates, playing third. Here is their lineup:

Morgan, lf
McCutchen, cf
Vazquez, 2b
Adam LaRoche, 1b
Hinske, 3b
Moss, rf
Wilson, ss
Jaramillo, c
Duke, lhp

UPDATE, 8:05: There's already a change, as the Pirates called and said they're willing to use the DH. So the Rays will use the opportunity to get some more at-bats for Matt Joyce, who made an impressive debut on Sunday. He'll go into the middle of the order, which now looks like this:

Kapler, cf
Navarro, c
Aybar, 2b
Pena, 1b
Burrell, lf
Joyce, dh
Ruggiano, rf
Brignac, ss
Kennedy, 3b

- - -

The Rays are heading north again to play the Pirates in Bradenton for the third time this spring, then have Tuesday off.

They are bringing several of their front-line players, and a lot of the focus will be on RHP Jason Hammel as he seeks to secure the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Here is the lineup:

Kapler, cf
Navarro, c
Aybar, 2b
Pena, 1b
Burrell, lf
Ruggiano, rf
Brignac, ss
Kennedy, 3b
Hammel, p

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:45am]


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