For starters, Rays at Tigers; Joyce "in the running" to make team

26

March

Update 9:10 p.m. Rays lose 6-3.

Update 8:49 p.m. Though he gave up four runs - and two homers - Andy Sonnanstine was overall pleased the progression of his changeup. He said his biggest problem tonight was location, leaving a few pitches up.

"I feel ecstatic the way my body is feeling right now," Sonnanstine said. "Just sharpen up a couple pitches and we'll be ready to go."

Update 8:45 p.m. RHP Troy Percival has entered the game in the seventh, making it the first time this spring he's pitched in back-to-back games.

Percival gave up two walks and a two-run triple to Will Rhymes, the first hit and runs he's given up all spring.

Tigers 6, Rays 3

Update 8:39 p.m. Joyce finished his busy game, having picked up his first spring hit, stole a base, and looked good in centerfield, catching a ball in left-center and overall feeling "great."

"I didn't really plan on getting my first hit of spring training this late, but I guess it was a good team to get it against," Joyce said.

Update 7:37p.m. Sonnanstine gave up a couple more runs in the fourth, on home runs by Brandon Inge and Curtis Granderson.

Tigers 4, Rays 2

Update 7:28 p.m. The Rays tied it up in the fourth on an RBI single by Gabe Gross, who knocked in Ben Zobrist (who had a triple).

Update 7:01p.m. RHP Andy Sonnanstine has given up four hits over two innings, but only one run (an RBI double by Magglio Ordonez in the first).

Joyce made a catch in centerfield, running to his right. And he's 0-for-1 at the plate, including a walk and fly out.

Tigers 1, Rays 1

Update 6:30 p.m. The Rays loaded the bases off the bat against Porcello, with Kennedy walking, Navarro and Aybar picking up singles.

Pena hit a fly ball to the warning track in center, for a sacrifice fly.

Update 5:27 p.m. OF Matt Joyce said he's excited to play centerfield tonight, and what he shows defensively in the last week of camp could go far in if he makes the team out of camp.

Manager Joe Maddon said Joyce "realistically, still has time" to prove he's healthy enough to break camp and be the extra outfielder - in case B.J. Upton isn't ready to play Opening Day. One reason why Joyce is in centerfield today is because there could be an opportunity to start the season, and Maddon said they're going to test him out there a little bit.

Joyce has been hampered all spring by tendonitis in his right leg, and will make his first outfield start of the spring tonight.

"He does, realistically, he still has time (to make the team)," Maddon said. "Being healthy and getting him out  there enough, and us feeling comfortable that he is beyond the risk of injuring himself more. So we have to test him a little bit and get him out there, play and get some at-bats. I've really enjoyed his at bats, and I think he has a special swing.

"We want to try him at different spots. We know how we feel about his arm, so all these things are there...And yes, he is still in the running for at the end of camp."

Maddon said they won't accelerate Joyce, in terms of getting him playing time. Joyce will DH Friday in Fort Myers against the Twins, saying he's swing is "close" to being where it needs to be. Joyce said he feels healthy enough to start the season, with his leg no longer a problem.

***

The players not going to Lakeland are working out with the minor-leaguers this morning in Port Charlotte. 2B Akinori Iwamura is expected at some point, and the Rays had some fun with two heart-shaped balloons waiting for him in his locker.

OF Justin Ruggiano, sent down unexpectedly on Wednesday, said via text message today he was "disappointed" to be sent down and: "I'm going to stay ready in case the opportunity arises where they do call on me.''

Here is the lineup for tonight's game posted in the clubhouse. The Tigers are putting most of their "A" lineup out there, with Granderson, Ordonez, Cabrera and Tampa's own Gary Sheffield. Prized pitching prospect Rick Porcello is on the mound.

Kennedy, lf
Navarro, c
Aybar, 2b
Pena, 1b
Joyce, cf
Zobrist, ss
Gross, rf
Ensberg, 3b
Weber, dh
Sonnanstine, p

TIGERS

Granderson, cf
Polanco, 2b
Ordonez, rf
Cabrera, 1b
Guillen, lf
Sheffield, dh
Laird, c
Inge, 3b
Santiago, ss
Porcello, p

- Marc Topkin and Joe Smith

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

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