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For starters, Rays vs Astros



4:05 p.m. Rays complete their 12-2 win over Astros.

Jeff Niemann had another strong outing, with Maddon liking the way he had command of his breaking balls. Niemann said he's open to a spot in the rotation or bullpen, and is getting close to refining all his pitches to where he wants them for the season.

3:05 p.m. LHP Brian Shouse pitched an inning of scoreless relief, helping his own cause by making two nice snags of sharp grounders up the middle.

Rays still up 11-1 in the fourth. Going down to clubhouse shortly to chat with Niemann.

2:49 p.m. Ray Sadler picked up another RBI double, continuing his solid spring.

Sadler, who hit a homer against the Phillies, has made a couple nice defensive plays (even though he had an error in that game), and has a couple hits today.

2:24 p.m. Ben Zobrist hit an RBI double to left-center, giving the Rays a 10-1 lead.

It is still the third inning, which has included four Astros pitchers, four bases loaded walks, and 10 runs.

There's so many runs, the Charlotte Park scoreboard couldn't go higher than nine, so it reads all zeros.

2:14 p.m. Adam Kennedy walked with the bases loaded - the fourth bases loaded walk of the inning - before CF Ray Sadler hit a two-run double to leftfield, making it 7-1.

2:08 p.m. Gervacio just walked Kapler and Navarro with the bases loaded, adding two more runs to the Rays tally.

Gervacio was pulled, having walked all three batters he faced.

Rays 4-1

2:01 p.m. Astros RHP Samuel Gervacio just came into the game, and walked Burrell with the bases loaded, which put the Rays up 2-1 in the third.

Gabe Kapler is up with the bases still loaded and nobody out.

1:52 p.m. Reid Brignac broke through his spring training slump at the plate with a solo homer here in the third, crushing the first pitch he saw it over the rightfield fence.

Brignac had been 0-for-11 in his first six spring apperances.

Bartlett picked up another hit - a single - and after back-to-back walks by Crawford and Zobrist, the bases are now loaded with nobody out for Pat Burrell.

Rays 1, Astros 1

1:45 p.m. Adam Kennedy, making a rare appearance at third base, just got his first test. Astros SS Edwin Maysonet just hit a sharp grounder down the third base line, with Kennedy diving - and it just getting under him for a double.

The runner from second scored.

Astros 1, Rays 0.

1:29 p.m. SS Jason Bartlett continued his strong spring at the plate, ripping a leadoff double in the left-center gap in the first inning. But he ended up getting stranded.

Niemman came out for the second, and did well again, impressing with his fastball (even though he gave up another long foul ball down rightfield).

No score.

1:08 p.m. RHP Jeff Niemann, a candidate for the fifth starter spot, had a good first inning. Though he gave up an infield hit, he struck out two (one with a nasty breaking ball). He did get a scare when ex-Angel Darin Erstad ripped a fly ball to the warning track in rightfield.

Rays coming up now.

11:47 a.m. OF Matt Joyce said he had a setback this morning with his strained right calf, another frustrating hurdle in him getting onto the field for the first time since getting acquired in the offseason in the Edwin Jackson trade.

Joyce had said a few days ago he was feeling great, and yesterday about "90 percent." But when he came in this morning, it hurt a little more, and manager Joe Maddon said he won't be playing Friday, as Joyce earlier predicted.

10:45 a.m. Just got out of our pre-game chat with manager Joe Maddon. Not much huge news, other than Maddon confirmed 1B Carlos Pena definitely is a go for Friday's exhibition against the Pirates in Bradenton, where he'll make his spring debut.

OF Matt Joyce is getting better, Maddon said, but won't be playing Friday. He's still nursing the right calf strain.

We should be getting the scheduled days the regular Rays starting pitchers will go - beginning Saturday, the likes of James Shields and Scott Kazmir will get their first few innings in spring.

Several regulars return to the lineup today for the Rays exhibition against the Astros.

RHP Jeff Niemann, a candidate for the bullpen and the fifth spot in the rotation, will start on the mound. The Astros counter with ex-Ray RHP Brandon Backe.

A few things to watch are the utility men, with Ben Zobrist getting a shot at first base, and Adam Kennedy making his first big league start at third base (he said he's played it in Triple-A, but has mostly played second throughout his career).

The MLB Network is here today, interviewing Maddon and a few Rays on camera. They'll likely be interviewing some fans here today, so be on the look out.

Bartlett, ss
Crawford, lf
Zobrist, 1b
Burrell, dh
Kapler, rf
Navarro, c
Kennedy, 3b
Sadler, cf

Brignac, 2b

Niemman, rhp


Michael Bourn CF
Edwin Maysonet SS
Darin Erstad RF
Jason Michaels LF
David Newhan DH
Chris Johnson 3B
Jason Smith 2B
Mark Saccomanno 1B
J.R. Towles C
Brandon Backe P


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


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