UPDATE, 5:52: Rays Maddon said he had planned to give Jennings today off, figuring he could use a break off the turf and Felix Hernandez was a good pitcher to rest him against, though Jennings is available for defense. ... Maddon spoke highly of Hernandez, saying he is "on the "very difficult" list." ... Zobrist wasn't necessarily the automatic choice to leadoff, Maddon said, but he liked the way the middle of the order looked that way. ... Triple-A Durham ended its losing streak at 13 with a 1-0 win as pitcher Matt Torra took a no-hitter into the 8th the day after the Bulls were no-hit. ... Durham OF Brandon Guyer was placed on the DL with a left ankle sprain.
UPDATE, 4:37: Rays lineup, with Jennings off and Zobrist up top: Zobrist 2b, Pena 1b, Longoria 3b, Scott dh, Joyce rf, Allen lf, Upton cf, S-Rod ss, Molina c, Hellickson p
BREAKING: The Rays are back at the Trop after taking two of three in Texas over the weekend for what should be a marquee pitching matchup between Jeremy Hellickson and Felix Hernandez. …
UPDATE, 6:11: There are no guarantees Matsui will be called up and no timetable once he starts playing, but the Rays sure seem to like the idea of having him as a possibility if they need help. "It's absolutely wonderful to have this guy in our organization,'' manager Joe Maddon said. ... More than 20 Japanese journalists at the Trop tonight, and peppering Matt Moore, who currently wears 55, what he would do is Matsui gets called up and wants the number back. (He respectfully said he hadn't really thought about it.)
BREAKING: The Rays made it official Monday, signing former All-Star OF/DH Hideki Matsui to a minor-league deal.
Matsui will be at the Trop on Tuesday for a media session, then on Wednesday report to the Rays extended spring camp in Port Charlotte. He is expected to eventually join Triple-A Durham, likely by mid-May.
"Over the past two decades, Hideki has been one of the most consistently productive hitters in the world,'' Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said, in a team release. "We are happy to add his ability, approach and professionalism to our organization.'' …
The Rays will wrap up a three-game series in Texas tonight with a matchup with the Rangers on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
LHP David Price takes the mound, coming off one of the better outings of his career, and hoping to get his first ever win against the Rangers.
Tampa Bay has its usual righties in the lineup against LHP Derek Holland. Manager Joe Maddon said while OF Matt Joyce is not in the lineup today, he'll play all this week, as the Rays are scheduled to face most all righthanders in the Mariners and A's series.
*Maddon said there's still no new update on any potential signing of DH Hideki Matsui.
*Maddon said C Jose Lobaton (shoulder) is doing some work at extended spring, and is not far off from a rehab assignment.
*Just a number to ponder - The Rays are 1-5 all-time on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, with the only win Aug 29, 2010.
Rays lineup Jennings lf Pena 1b Longoria 3b Zobrist rf Keppinger 2b Upton cf Scott dh Rodriguez ss Gimenez c
Rangers lineup Kinsler 2b Andrus ss Hamilton lf Beltre 3b Young dh Cruz rf Napoli 1b Torrealba c Gentry cf Holland lhp
Update 6:55 p.m. Rays manager Joe Maddon said there's no update on any potential signing of DH Hideki Matsui.
Maddon said CF B.J. Upton is out of the lineup tonight as a planned day off, plus he wanted to get Brandon Allen a start to keep him fresh for pinch hitting duties. Maddon pointed out Allen is from Texas, and his parents are here, so "I expect him to have a good game."
Developing: The Rays will try to clinch the weekend series with Texas with another win tonight at Rangers Ballpark.
RHP Jeff Niemann takes the mound, trying to bounce back from some previous struggles against Texas (0-2, 10.66 ERA). RHP Colby Lewis, who has been tough on the Rays - both in the regular season and playoffs - will start for the Rangers.
The Rays lineup has a different look tonight, with CF B.J. Upton off, and LF Brandon Allen making his first start for the Rays. Elliot Johnson will start for the second straight game. Upton is 0-for-7 in his career against Lewis.
With the Rays playing on the ESPN Sunday Night game tommorrow, ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona & Co were in Tampa Bay's clubhouse doing prep work. …
Update 6:48 p.m. Rays manager Joe Maddon said there's no update on the potential signing of DH Hideki Matsui. "None. Zero."
Update 5:48 p.m. 1B/OF Brandon Allen said he got tons of text messages the past 24 hours, since he hit a walkoff homer to beat the Angels Thursday in his first official at-bat with Rays.
"It's been a whirlwind," he said. "It's been fun."
Allen said his parents, Paul and Doris, are here, as is his sister, Karissa, having made the three-hour drive from Montgomery.
*C Chris Gimenez, making his fourth start in eight days, said it's the most he's played in a few week stretch his entire career. It's helped him get a rhythm at the plate, and it's shown, having reached base in nine of his last 11 games. "It's been awesome," he said.
*The guest of the day so far is RHP Jeff Nieman's dog, Saddie, a 45-pound Belgian shepherd, who was in the clubhouse for a while. LHP David Price posted a photo of her on his Twitter account, and it quickly racked up the views. "
*While this was supposed to be the "minimalist" themed trip, with the team packing light, clubhouse and equipment manager Chris Westmoreland said it didn't seem that way when they loaded up. …
Cast members Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Photo by Jeff O’Kelley.
The four members of the hit TV show Modern Family cast who appeared at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on Wednesday night became part of the Rays family when they donned team jerseys during their stage show.
In addition to Ty Burrell (Phil Dunphy) and Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell Pritchett), shown above, Julie Bowen (Claire Dunphy) and Eric Stonestreet (Cameron Tucker) were also on hand.
The Rays had planned, through their marketing department, to deliver the jerseys, but were surprised when show organizers decided to have them presented on stage, with PR staffers Dave Haller and Erik Ruiz, both huge fans of the show, getting to do the honors.
"It was a great thrill,'' Haller said. "But most of all, I'm thankful I didn't slip on an egg.''
Bowen, who joked on Twitter they would be acting out "Who's on First" so fans didn't miss out on baseball during the show, seemed to like it, tweeting later: "Thanks so much to everyone who came out tonight in Clearwater, FL. It turns out the Rays have great fans (and so does #ModernFamily )"
The Rays rallied in the ninth inning to beat the Angels 4-3 and extend their season-high winning streak to five.
Down 3-2 and with one out, the Rays rally started when B.J. Upton singled. It ended when pinch-hitter Brandon Allen crushed a two-run homer.
Allen, claimed on waivers last week from Oakland, played a key role on Wednesday in his first appearance for the Rays when he drew a bases-loaded walk. Thursday was a little more active, with his first career walkoff hit.
Rookie LHP Matt Moore got off to a strong start for the Rays, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning, when Mark Trumbo homered to tie the game. But Moore gave up two more runs (one unearned) in the sixth. Moore, 22, is now winless through four starts.
The Rays scored in the first, when Ben Zobrist doubled in Desmond Jennings, and again in the sixth, when Matt Joyce tripled in Luke Scott.
Angels 1B Albert Pujols singled in his third at-bat, snapped his career-worst 0-for-21 slump, though he was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
The Rays left after the game for a weekend series in Texas, with James Shields on the mound for the Friday night opener.
When a bat - the flying animal kind - landed on the Trop turf last night, Rays INF Elliot Johnson came to its rescue.
"When the need arises, I'm there to meet that need,'' he said.
Johnson had experience, having scooped up bats several times in the minor leagues. Wednesday, he said he used a couple of cups to scoop up the small bat - which he named Fuzzy - and brought it into the dugout and then the clubhouse.
"We were on defense and they were all looking at it and the umpires were like, "Hey, call somebody to come pick this thing up." And I'm like I'll go get it, I've done this before,'' Johnson said. "I usually use a glove but I used two cups. It was still alive, he was flapping around.''
Since the bat was wounded - and bleeding - Rays clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland took it home after the game and then dropped it off at a vet's office this morning.
"We're waiting for an update,'' Westmoreland said. "It'll be on the trainers' report.''
A decision on the potential bond reduction for Rays minor league pitcher Matt Bush has been postponed until Monday due to a health issue with the prosecutor.
Bush is in Charlotte County jail facing seven charges stemming from a Mar. 22 DUI hit-and-run arrest in North Port. He was expecting a decision today in a hearing whether his $1.015 million bail will be reduced. In today's hearing, Roy Silver, a director of the Winning Inning in Clearwater, testified on Bush's behalf on his experience with him during 2010, when the 26-year-old signed with the Rays.
Tony Tufano, son of the victim in the crash, 72-year-old Tony Tufano, read a two-page statement on what his father went through, and how it's impacted the family. He also gave a couple photos of Tufano to the judge.
The Tampa Bay Rays will head into the 2014 season with Evan Longoria, David Price, Ben Zobrist and a few new faces, including Grant Balfour. Can they best the Yankees and Red Sox in the highly competitive AL East? Come here to follow Rays news at Tropicana Field and beyond.