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For starters, Rays vs. Reds



UPDATE, 4:07: Rays lose 5-1 and manager Joe Maddon said it appears the length of spring training is draining the Rays. "I'd like to see more energy next week,'' he said. Maddon was very pleased with Hammel's outing, but not enough to annouced a decision on the fifth starter's spot. Jeff Niemann is likely to pitch in a minor-league game Monday, and the decision may come after that. Hammel too was pleased.

UPDATE, 3:09: RHP Grant Balfour gave up a long drive to center to Paul Janish that one-hopped the batter's eye screen for a ground-rule double as the Reds are threatening in the seventh. And they scored when 2B Akinori Iwamura bobbled a ground ball when he could have a play at the plate. Now 3-1 Reds.

UPDATE, 2:45: Isringhausen hasn't been hit hard, but he's been nicked enough to give up two runs - two singles, two walks, an out and a two-RBI single by Jay Bruce. He's out of the inning, but the Rays trail 2-1 midway through the sixth.

UPDATE, 2:37: Jason Isringhausen, who also is competing for a job, is now in.

UPDATE, 2:33: Hammel had an impressive outing, allowing only two hits (one the uncaught pop-up) while striking out four in five innings. Rays lead 1-0.

UPDATE, 1:56: The Rays took a 1-0 lead when Akinori Iwamura walked to lead off the third, went to third on a Carl Crawford single and scored on Evan Longoria's sac fly to left.

UPDATE, 1:48: Hammel has looked sharper, working a 1-2-3 second and allowing only a single in the third when a popup dropped untouched behind the mound. So much for the starting infield being together.

UPDATE, 1:15: Hammel didn't start well, walking leadoff man Willy Taveras, but picked him off first, then got Jeff Keppinger looking at strike three and Joey Votto on a fly to deep center.

UPDATE, 10:30: Fastball command will be what manager Joe Maddon and staff are most interested in seeing today from Hammel, who has been the frontrunner for the No. 5 spot. Maddon said he hopes to announce a decision between Hammel and Jeff Niemann by Monday.

Further, Maddon said he hopes all the cuts are made by the time the Rays break camp on Wednesday, even though rosters don't have to be set until Sunday.

Pat Burrell was working at first base this morning, and Maddon indicated he could be used there and in the outfield as the season goes on, especially if it allows them to get Willy Aybar in the lineup more. Burrell, who played first and third in college at Miami, played 58 games at first for the Phillies in 2000 (and making six errors) but hasn't played there since.

B.J. Upton will play in a minor-league game today.

Also, RHP Chad Bradford, who underwent off-season elbow surgery and is supposed to be out until at least May, has been playing catch and "looking frisky.''

- - -

The Rays are preparing for their second-to-last home game of the spring at the Charlotte Sports Park under cloudy skies.

The lineup contains what looks to be the starters for opening day in Boston April 6 against Boston's projected starter RHP Josh Beckett, though the batting order seems likely to change.

Today is also a big day for RHP Jason Hammel, who makes his last pitch for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Here is the lineup:
Iwamura, 2b
Crawford, lf
Longoria, 3b
Pena, 1b
Burrell, dh
Navarro, c
Zobrist, cf
Gross, rf
Bartlett, ss
Hammel, p

And here is the Reds lineup, with Jonny Gomes not on the travel squad:

Taveras, cf
Keppinger, ss
Votto, 1b
Phillips, 2b
Bruce, rf
Encarnacion, dh
Dickerson, lf
Hernandez, c
Janish, 3b
Volquez, p


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


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