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For starters, Rays vs. Reds



UPDATE, 4:30. Manager Joe Maddon said CF B.J. Upton came out of his minor league game well today, with him playing in the outfield and making one play.

“He came through it well,” Maddon said. “He felt good – no problems.”

Maddon said Upton will play in a minor league game again Thursday, where he's expected to face live pitching for the first time since his offseason left shoulder surgery.

Upton, recovering from offseason left shoulder surgery, has taken batting practice with the team (like he did Wednesday) and tracked live pitching at the minor league field, but Thursday would mark his first regular at-bat in a game setting (albeit at the minor league level) since the procedure.

Maddon liked the way RHP Jason Hammel settled in and threw strikes after a rocky first two innings - when he gave up three runs. He said he's more confident this camp, and less prone to worry about things he can't control.

That's why Hammel said afterwards he's not reading too much into everything regarding the fifth rotation spot - that Jeff Niemann is pitching out of relief later in the week, and that two other previous candidates, RH Mitch Talbot and LH Carlos Hernandez, are no longer in camp.

Hammel's only concern? "Throw strikes."

UPDATE, 4:26 The Rays win 7-3.

UPDATE, 3:46: RHP Grant Balfour just completed an impressive eighth inning, which included two strikeouts (one of ex-Ray Jonny Gomes).

So that makes scoreless innings for Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Joe Nelson this afternoon.

UPDATE, 3:30: OF Matt Joyce said he felt "really good" after playing in the outfield three innings in a Single-A exhibition, saying he's confident he's on the right track of getting back after being sidelined all spring with right leg tendonitis.

Joyce had three at bats, with a single, walk and groundout, and made one play in the field ("an easy fly ball") .

"Just getting your legs back into it, that’s the biggest thing," Joyce said. "Running on and off the field, you’d be surprised with how quick it fades you know, how ure body has to adjust …"

UPDATE, 3:14: Percival had another impressive outing, setting the Reds down 1-2-3 in the sixth with only one ball hit to the outfield.

UPDATE, 3:02: RHP Troy Percival has entered the game in the sixth to make his third spring apperance.

So far this spring, Percival has pitched two innings - and has looked sharp in both.

UPDATE, 3:01. SS Reid Brignac added to the Rays rally in the fifth with a two-run homer over the rightfield wall.

Rays 7, Reds 3

UPDATE, 2:55. C Dioner Navarro just ripped a two-out, two-run single in the fifth, putting the Rays up 4-3.

Navarro had entered the game off the bench, saying the Rays wanted him to get some work with the relievers.

Rays 4, Reds 3

UPDATE, 2:52 The Rays put some runs on the board here in the fifth. Pat Burrell came through with an RBI single, and they scored a second when 3B Edwin Encarnacion couldn't handle a Morgan Ensberg grounder.

Reds 3, Rays 2

UPDATE, 2:39 Hammel finished his outing after four innings, giving up three runs.

It wasn't his best outing, but he appeared to settle down and get stronger after the first two innings.

UPDATE, 2:00 RHP The Rays stranded the bases loaded again here in the second, with Crawford striking out to end the threat.

Reds are up 3-0, with Hammel coming out for the third.

UPDATE, 1:28 RHP Hammel gave up a leadoff homer to Edwin Encarnacion in the second, putting the Reds up 2-0.

The Rays loaded the bases in the first, but Pat Burrell hit into an inning-ending double play.

UPDATE, 1:07 RHP Jason Hammel, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, has gotten off to a rough start here in the first.

Hammel walked the leadoff hitter Willy Taveras, who stole second and scored on a Chris Dickerson single.

Reds 1, Rays 0

UPDATE, 10:53: CF B.J. Upton will play in a minor-league game today, but only on defense, and with the understanding that he won't do anything to endanger his surgically repaired left shoulder. The idea is just to get him slowly more involved as he continues his recovery. Also, OF Matt Joyce will play again in a minor-league game, with plans to take him to Fort Lauderdale and play for the big-league team, as the DH, on Saturday.

UPDATE, 10:50: The Reds are here, and brought some of their big names as well. Jonny Gomes is on the trip but not in the lineup:

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

UPDATE, 9:15: Longoria is out of the lineup, replaced by Morgan Ensberg. Here is the new look:

Bartlett, ss
Crawford, lf
Aybar, 2b
Pena, 1b
Burrell, dh
Gross, rf
Kapler, cf
Ensberg, 3b
Hernandez, c
Hammel, p

UPDATE, 8:35: Longoria said he hasn't heard anything yet, and that if he does get the call from Team USA officials he will talk to Rays officials about the possibility. But he's also sick, saddled with the same gastrointestinal bug that has been going through the clubhouse, and appeared to be headed home for the day.

The Rays are back in action after Tuesday's off-day, hosting the Reds this afternoon in Port Charlotte, though there is the threat of rain this afternoon.

With the roster reduced to 43 after Monday's trimming, the competition should be a little more intense.

Also, there could be news today on whether 3B Evan Longoria is added to the Team USA roster for the final round of the World Baseball Classic.

Here is the lineup posted in the Rays clubhouse this morning:

Bartlett, ss
Crawford, lf
Longoria, 3b
Pena, 1b
Burrell, dh
Aybar, 2b
Gross, rf
Kapler, cf
Hernandez, c
Hammel, p

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


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