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Rough day for Rays in 11-2 loss

Yunel Escobar loses the grip on his bat in the first inning.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Yunel Escobar loses the grip on his bat in the first inning.

The Rays' five-game spring winning streak came to an abrupt halt Thursday in an 11-2 loss to the Tigers.

Roberto Hernandez overcame a shaky first to turn in a solid overall 2 1/3 inning outing to continue his bid for a spot in the rotation. LHP Matt Moore was not sharp in his debut, having trouble locating and throwing only in the low 90s, but said he felt fine and was just glad to get the first outing over,

Also pitching were Joel Peralta and Cesar Ramos, who did well, and Jake McGee, who did not, though he said he was working on his cutter today and not throwing his fastball at full velocity.

Evan Longoria and red-hot Leslie Anderson had two more hits each.

The Rays play in Dunedin on Friday, with Jake Odorizzi making the start. Key players on the trip include Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, Wil Myers, Jose Molina, Sean Rodriguez.

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Video: Zobrist on heading to WBC

Rays INF/OF Ben Zobrist is excited about heading to Arizona this weekend to join the U.S. team for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. While some players have passed on the chance to participate, Zobrist said he would have begged to be on the team.

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Friday: Chat live with the Times' Tom Jones

Tom Jones will be taking your questions Friday, March 1, from noon to 1 p.m.

Times files

Tom Jones will be taking your questions Friday, March 1, from noon to 1 p.m.

Want to talk about the Lightning's recent struggles? Rays spring training? The Bucs' offseason? College basketball? Sports on TV/radio? Join Times sports writer Tom Jones for a live chat Friday, March 1, from noon to 1 p.m.

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Longoria involved in new south Tampa sports bar that features mini-bowling

Evan Longoria is involved with a new sports bar venture in south Tampa that will feature food, drink, televisions and four lanes of mini-bowling.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Evan Longoria is involved with a new sports bar venture in south Tampa that will feature food, drink, televisions and four lanes of mini-bowling.

The new sports bar venture in south Tampa Rays 3B Evan Longoria is involved in will include not only food, drink and lots of TVs but four lanes of mini-bowling.

Ducky's Sports Lounge is set to debut sometime this spring just west of downtown Tampa (1719 W. Kennedy Blvd.) and be open daily for lunch, dinner and late-night dining in a 5,700-square-foot space that can seat 148.

Per a press release., some highlights include:

* Mini-bowling: "A smaller, simpler form of the sport that does not require special shoes, uses a smaller ball, and incorporates two, 80-inch high-definition projection screens in the middle of each lane for optimal game viewing.''

* Sports viewing: 42-inch screeens throughout the building.

* Menu: Includes items such as pretzel-wrapped pigs in a blanket; Italian sausage sliders; New York-style thin-crust pizzas created by veteran Tampa restaurateur, Rico Iavarone; deviled crab; media noche sliders; palomilla steak sandwiches; plus a “Healthy Duck” special of the day and create-your-own salad option. The menu was developed by chef Frankie Midulla, who has worked in New York, Miami and Tampa, including Valencia Gardens and his own restaurant, Midulla’s.

“Ducky’s will have a little something for everyone –mini bowling for friends and families, a convenient happy hour spot for the downtown crowd and an incredible game-watching venue for sports fans,” said Keith Goan, one of Ducky’s owners.  “It’s exciting to be a part of the current wave of development along Kennedy Boulevard and to bring this unique concept to the area.”

For more information see DuckysTampa.com.

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Scott excited about return to outfield

Luke Scott, left, talks with Yunel Escobar, right, during a workout earlier this month in Port Charlotte.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Luke Scott, left, talks with Yunel Escobar, right, during a workout earlier this month in Port Charlotte.

Bench coach Dave Martinez went up to Luke Scott on Wednesday and told him to be ready to play in the outfield soon.

Very soon, as Scott will start in rightfield today, his first outfield appearance since July 3, 2011, prior to surgery to repair the right shoulder he tore a few days earlier.

"Why not?" Scott said. "I'm feeling well. I'm excited to get back out in the outfield.''

Both Scott and manager Joe Maddon say that being able to play the outfield and 1B occasionally should help him be a better DH as well. Though Scott is playing rightfield today, Maddon said he most likely would be used in leftfield. Scott last played rightfield in 2007 with Houston.

Scott said he has been throwing well and working on his routes.

 

 

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For starters: Rays vs. Tigers

UPDATE, 1:08: Rays and Tigers underway in front of a big crowd in Port Charlotte. For updates, follow our @TBTimes_Rays Twitter feed, which can also be viewed on the Rays page on tampabay.com.

UPDATE, 11:04: New Tigers lineup:
Jackson cf,
Kelly 1b,
Cabrera 3b,
Avila c
Peralta ss,
Collins rf
Infante 2b
Castellanos lf,
Casali dh,
Sanchez p

UPDATE, 9:58: Tigers lineup:
Jackson cf,
Infante 2b,
Cabrera 3b,
Peralta ss,
Castellanos lf,
Garcia rf,
Avila c,
Tuiasosopo 1b,
Casali dh,
Sanchez p

UPDATE, 9:19: AL MVP Miguel Cabrera is on the travel squad for the Tigers today.

UPDATE, 8:27: Luke Scott will make his first appearance in the outfield since 2011 - pre-surgery on his right shoulder today - and Kelly Johnson will be back in leftfield.

Scott has he has been feeling good and looking forward to it: "Why not?" Part of his thinking, and the team's, is that being able to play the field occasionally will help his hitting overall as the DH.

Lineup:
Zobrist dh
Johnson lf
Longoria 3b
Scott rf
Escobar ss
Loney 1b
Roberts 2b
Lobaton c
Fuld cf
Hernandez p …

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Video: Rays Spring Training Report

Tampa Bay Times beat writer Joe Smith reports on the Rays' victory over the Pirates.

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Rays pick up a 8-2 win over Pirates in Bradenton

Rays manager Joe Maddon, far left, smiles as Desmond Jennings gets high fives from teammates after stealing home during the fifth inning.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Rays manager Joe Maddon, far left, smiles as Desmond Jennings gets high fives from teammates after stealing home during the fifth inning.

Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson felt good in his spring debut, as did starter Jeff Niemann in his second outing, as Tampa Bay beat the Pirates, 8-2, Wednesday at McKechnie Field.

The Rays jumped out early with five runs in the first three innings, largely thanks to three Pirates errors. DH Luke Scott had a big day, with two hits, including an RBI double off the right-center wall. INF Tim Beckham, the former No. 1 pick, had a double and a triple, and made some good plays at second. "Everything he was doing was outrageously good," manager Joe Maddon said.

Veteran Kelly Johnson handled himself well in leftfield, saying he didn’t feel “like a fish out of water” in his first appearance there since 2005.
  
On the mound, Niemann tossed an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning, saying he felt stronger than his first outing.

Hellickson, making his debut in relief, threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, getting himself out of a jam in the second.
The Rays return home to Port Charlotte Thursday to face the Tigers. 3B Evan Longoria will return to the lineup, as he continues his every-other-day schedule. RHP Roberto Hernandez will start, with LHP Matt Moore making his spring debut.

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Video: Rays' Hellickson on spring debut

Tampa Bay Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson said it was a little "different" to come out of the bullpen for his spring debut Wednesday against the Pirates.

But Hellickson was happy with how it went, getting out of a jam in the second and retiring two hitters in the third inning, allowing no runs over 1 2/3 innings. He threw 34 pitches, 22 for strikes, allowing three hits and striking out two.

"I felt good," Hellickson said. "The ball was coming out of my hand good. I couldn't ask for anything else."

Hellickson said he didn't think he'd come out for a second inning after laboring a little in the first one, putting runners on first and third with one out, before striking out the next two hitters.

"They asked if I felt good, if I wanted to go for another one, I said, 'Yeah,'" Hellickson said. "I didn't think I was going out there after the first inning, but I felt good."


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Video: Kelly Johnson on day in leftfield

Tampa Bay Rays veteran Kelly Johnson predicted he may have an interesting day Wednesday, his first appearance in leftfield since 2005.

Johnson, 31, joked he just wanted to "manage expectations."

But Johnson handled himself well in two innings in left, getting his share of action. Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez ripped a double over his head, and off the wall, in the second. Two batters later, Johnson charged a single by Gaby Sanchez, holding Alvarez at third. He also had a single and was hit by a pitch in two at-bats.

"I felt all right out there," Johnson said. "I didn't feel too much like a fish out of water. It's different, I'll say that. It definitely breaks up the routine to go and mix it up and see it from a different angle."

Johnson, who has been primarily a second baseman throughout his career, will get some looks in leftfield as the Rays hope his versatility will work out for both him and the team. Johnson said he's done some early work in the outfield each of the past four days, and is open to the challenge.

"When he's writing the lineup, it gives me another opportunity to be in the lineup," Johnson said. "That's all I can hope for."

 

 

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David Price says wrist is fine after batted ball bump

David Price worked one inning on Tuesday and said overall it was the best he felt all spring.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

David Price worked one inning on Tuesday and said overall it was the best he felt all spring.

Cy Young Award winning LHP David Price said this morning there were absolutely no issues with his left wrist, which was struck by a batted ball in the first inning of his Tuesday debut.

Price said after his outing that he was fine, and didn't seem affected at all (his next pitch was 95 mph), though manager Joe Maddon said after the game he saw a mark on Price's wrist.

Sitting at his locker Wednesday morning, Price not only said he was fine but held out both wrists to show there was no difference: "Which one did it even hit me on - I don't remember.''

Price worked one inning on Tuesday and said overall it was the best he felt all spring. He is scheduled to make his next outing on Sunday in Port Charlotte vs. Minnesota.

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For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Johnson in LF

UPDATE 11:55: In-game updates will be posted on Twitter @TBTimesRays2, so check it out.

UPDATE 11:48: Kelly Johnson said he's looking forward to starting in leftfield, his first action there since 2005, but predicts it should be an interesting - and challenging - day. He's been getting a lot of work there in recent days, mostly during BP. Manager Joe Maddon said he's eager to see it, with Johnson increasing his versatility likely working out for both him and the team. 

*Maddon said 3B Evan Longoria will play Thursday against the Tigers, and is on an every-other day program.

*Maddon said Ben Zobrist wants to play more "extensively" before he leaves Sunday for the WBC, so expect to see a lot of him in the coming days. Maddon said C Jose Molina also wants to catch in back to back games before going to WBC.

*Maddon said first cuts should be coming relatively soon.

*When it comes to the fifth spot in the rotation, whether it's Jeff Niemann or Roberto Hernandez, Maddon said health will play a factor in how it plays out. …

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Video: Longoria good after 1st test

Rays 3B Evan Longoria said he felt good after testing his previously troublesome left hamstring twice on the basepaths in his spring debut on Tuesday.

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Video: Price on spring debut

Rays ace David Price was pleased with his performance in his spring debut Tuesday, allowing one hit and one walk while throwing 19 pitches. He was hit on the left wrist reaching for a comebacker by the leadoff batter but said he was fine.

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Rays win 7-2 in rain-shortened game (with video)

LHP David Price and 3B Evan Longoria made successful spring debuts as the Rays beat an Astros split squad 7-2 on Tuesday.

Price allowed one hit and one walk in a 19-pitch first inning, and Longoria went 2-for-2 and tested his left hamstring several times on the bases.

Ryan Roberts had a home run and a single for the Rays, up improved to 4-1, and Leslie Anderson a two-run double to extend his spring RBI total to 7.

Also, the Rays announced that RHP Jeff Niemann will start Wednesday in Bradenton, though RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who was schedueld, also will pitch.

There were light showers on and off during the game, and it was called after 5 1/2 innings when the rain got heavier.

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