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For starters, Rays at Pirates, under the lights



UPDATE, 10:42: Rays win 6-4. Maddon acknowledged that Price wasn't "overtly sharp,'' but praised his changeup. Price was tougher on himself, saying throwing 58 pitches in 2 1/3 innings "isn't very good.''

UPDATE, 9:44: OF Jon Weber just hit a two-run homer for the Rays, extending their lead to 6-3.

UPDATE, 9:32 Price came out for a third inning, but left with one out and one on, replaced by Randy Choate. It's 4-3 Rays going to the eighth.

UPDATE, 9:15: It wasn't pretty the whole time, but David Price worked two innings and gave up one run on a pair of doubles, and had three strikeouts. Sonnanstine meanwhile said all felt well and went well and he, like some other Rays, is working to improve his changeup.

UPDATE, 8:48: They added another run on a groundout by Dioner Navarro, making it 4-2, still with three hits.

UPDATE, 8:41: Rays just went ahead 3-2 on a ground out by Willy Aybar. The Rays have three runs on three hits.

UPDATE, 8:40: Rays just tied it 2-2 with a single and three walks in the sixth, the last by Pat Burrell after a massively long foul ball to left.

UPDATE, 8:28: The Rays got on the board when Jason Bartlett singled through the left side to score Rey Olmedo. It's 2-1 Pirates. ... The Rays drew another big crowd, a sellout gathering of 5,836 at McKechnie Field.

UPDATE, 8:08: It's 2-0 Pirates as the Rays bat in the fifth.

UPDATE, 7:52: Andy Sonnanstine is done for the night, having allowed three hits and one run over three innings.

UPDATE, 7:44: Andy LaRoche singled, moved around on two outs and scored when Freddy Sanchez lined a double between Evan Longoria and the third-base line - the green-capped Pirates lead 1-0.

UPDATE, 7:41: So far it's been mostly quick work by starters Andy Sonnanstine and Paul Maholm, as it's 0-0 midway through the third.

UPDATE, 6:19: There have been no final decisions, but it sure sounded during manager Joe Maddon's pre-game media session that RHP Jason Hammel has emerged as the front-runner for the fifth starter's job.

With LHP Carlos Hernandez and RHP Mitch Talbot sent to the minors on Monday, Hammel, RHP Jeff Niemann and LHP David Price are the remaining candidates for the open spot in the rotation. And though Niemann has pitched well, the Rays seem inclined to look at him in a long relief role. Price, meanwhile, is still considered a long shot because the Rays want to limit his innings and have him continue his development.

With Hammel scheduled to start Wednesday against the Reds, and Niemann set to work in relief again, the Rays' plans seem somewhat clear, though manager Joe Maddon said there is "a split" among team officials on whether Hammel or Niemann should start and the other work in long relief.

"Obviously it's looking that way and it may turn out that way, but it's really not finalized,'' Maddon said. "It's not. It truly is not. Jeff could easily be a starter, Hammer could easily be the reliever, i like the way it's setting up right now, but we have discussions going back and forth regarding that point exactly - if it were those two, who should start, who should be in the bullpen. So there's a split in regard to that right now.''

Also, Matt Joyce is scheduled to play the outfield in a minor-league game on Tuesday in Port Charlotte, an accelerated timetable since he originally was going to make his debut as the DH Thursday in the big-league game. Joyce, sidelined all spring with right leg tendinitis, may still play Thursday, but the Rays can better control what he does in the minor-league game, such as have him run the bases even if he doesn't get a hit.

UPDATE, 5:08: From Bradenton, here is the Pirates lineup:
Morgan, lf
Sanchez, 2b
McLouth, cf
Doumit, c
Adam LaRoche, 1b
Tabata, rf
Monroe, dh
Andy LaRoche, 3b
Wilson, ss

Rays players are just trickling into the clubhouse after a rare chance to sleep in, with the bus leaving for Bradenton at 3:15. Here is the lineup posted in the clubhouse:

Bartlett, ss
Kapler, rf
Longoria, 3b
Burrell, dh
Aybar, 1b
Zobrist, lf
Navarro, c
Ruggiano, cf
Olmedo, 2b

Andy Sonnanstine will start, with David Price scheduled to pitch in relief, along with  Brian Shouse, Mitch Talbot and Randy Choate.

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


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