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Video: Sights and sounds of Rays opener

A look at the sights and sounds of the Rays season opener in a video compiled by our Chris Zuppa and Kent Nishimura.

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Video: Traverse the new 360-walkway at Tropicana Field

Follow along as we walk the new 360-degree walkway at Tropicana Field on opening day.

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Video: Opening day sights and sounds

Check out the sights and sounds from the Tampa Bay Rays' season-opening, 9-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in this video report.

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Rays open in winning style, beat Jays 9-2

The Rays opened their season of grand expectations in great fashion Monday, beating the Jays 9-2 before a sellout crowd at renovated Tropicana Field.

Ace David Price, who didn't expect to still be with the team, showed why it's a good thing that he is, pitching impressively into the eighth inning, allowing the two runs on six hits.

The Rays jumped out to an early lead on a two-out RBI single in the first by Evan Longoria, and added on from there.

Wil Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, had a two-run single in the second, and later scored on a "Little League" homer when he bounced a ball toward the mound and the Jays made two errors.

Matt Joyce, starting at DH, knocked in a run in the third on a sac fly, and then two more withj a double in the fifth.

The Rays showed off the new renovations to the Trop, primarily a 360-degree walkway and new centerfield gathering area called The Porch. The changes reduced capacity to 31,042.

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Sternberg: Can't imagine we could be in better shape for opener

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg smiles along with Rays fan Ashley Wright, 29, from Parrish, as her husband Andrew Dropla takes a picture with his smartphone during Rays batting practice today at Tropicana Field.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg smiles along with Rays fan Ashley Wright, 29, from Parrish, as her husband Andrew Dropla takes a picture with his smartphone during Rays batting practice today at Tropicana Field.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg joked that the widespread lofty expectations and predictions of a World Series berth for the team scare him, but he said before Monday's opener he likes where they are.

"I can not imagine a year where we'd be in better shape on Opening Day than we are right now.'' he said.

Sternberg said he has not met since February with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman - he hoped to see him here today - about the stadium issue but expected they would continue talking and "things will happen" this year though he didn't know what. He said the clock on resolving the stadium stalemate has been "loudly ticking for a few years.''

"Progress isn't going to happen with one meeting or another it's going to happen with like minds coming together and trying to figure out what's best for the citizens of St. Petersburg and of Tampa Bay and Florida in general,'' he said. …

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For openers, Ray vs. Jays

The scene at the Trop today.

MARC TOPKIN / TIMES

The scene at the Trop today.

UPDATE, 2:56: The lofty expectations for the Rays make some officials - such as principal owner Stuart Sternberg a bit uneasy, but manager Joe Maddon has no concerns. "I love 'em,' Maddon said. "I prefer having a lot of expectations to none.''

Maddon's one major lineup decision was at catcher, and he said with no real difference offensively between newcomer Ryan Hanigan and veteran Jose Molina offensively, he decided to keep intact the previously successful pairing of Molina with ace David Price. Going forward, Maddon said he  plans to have Hanigan catch Price some times - unless it just works out that Molina has done so well with him.

Otherwise, Maddon said the team is excited and ready to go.

UPDATE, 2:52: The Jays lineup includes former Rays C Dioner Navarro as the DH.

Here it is:
Reyes ss
Cabrera lf
Bautista rf
Encarnacion 1b
Navarro dh
Lawrie 3b
Rasmus cf
Izturis 2b
Thole c

DEVELOPING: The Rays are set to open their 17th season today amid grand expecations, with a sellout crowd expected at renovated Tropicana Field with potentially their most talented roster in franchise history. …

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Rays minor-league rosters

Opening day rosters as released by the Rays for the four full-season affiliates:

TRIPLE-A DURHAM

Pitchers (13)
RHP Matt Andriese
LHP Erik Bedard
LHP Jeff Beliveau
RHP Brad Boxberger
RHP Steve Geltz
RHP Nathan Karns
RHP Merrill Kelly
LHP Adam Liberatore
LHP Mike Montgomery
LHP C.J. Riefenhauser
LHP Enny Romero
RHP Juan Sandoval
RHP Kirby Yates

Catchers (2)
Eddy Rodriguez
Ali Solis

Infielders (6)
Vince Belnome
Wilson Betemit
Cole Figueroa
Mike Fontenot
Ray Olmedo
Robby Price

Outfielders (4)
Justin Christian
Kevin Kiermaier
Mikie Mahtook
Jerry Sands

DL (3)
OF James Darnell
ING Hak-Ju Lee
OF Jeremy Moore

DOUBLE-A MONTGOMERY

Pitchers (13)
RHP Andrew Bellatti
RHP Michael Colla
RHP Dylan Floro
RHP Santiago Garrido
LHP Grayson Garvin
LHP Braulio Lara
RHP Matthew Lollis
RHP Victor Mateo
RHP Jared Mortensen
LHP James Patterson
RHP Matthew Ramsey
RHP Sam Runion
RHP Jacob Thompson

Catchers (2)
Curt Casali
Luke Maile

Infielders (7)
Ryan Brett
Jake Hager
Taylor Motter
Alejandro Segovia
Cameron Seitzer
Richard Shaffer
Riccio Torrez

Outfielders (3)
Willie Argo
Jeffrey Malm
Joey Rickard

DL (3)
RHP Lenny Linsky
OF Ty Morrison
LHP Jacob Partridge …

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Rays set roster, put Oviedo on DL

The Rays set their opening day roster by placing RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo on the 15-day DL, along with INF Tim Beckham and RHP Jeremy Hellickson.

Those moves made official what has been obvious, that RHP Brandon Gomes and RHP Josh Lueke got the final two bullpen spots.

Oviedo, listed technically as recovering from right elbow surgery, is expected to be ready in a few weeks after missing the first month of camp due to visa issues, as the Rays are proceeding cautiously as he hasn't pitched in the majors since 2011.

Hellickson, who had elbow surgery, is aiming for a June 1 return. Beckham, who had knee surgery, should be back after the All-Star break.

So the Rays roster breaks down like this:

Starters (5)
LHP David Price
RHP Alex Cobb
LHP Matt Moore
RHP Chris Archer
RHP Jake Odorizzi

Relievers (7)
RHP Grant Balfour
RHP Heath Bell
RHP Brandon Gomes
RHP Josh Lueke
LHP Jake McGee
RHP Joel Peralta
LHP Cesar Ramos

Catchers (2)
Ryan Hanigan
Jose Molina

Infielders (6)
SS Yunel Escobar
UTIL Logan Forsythe
1B James Loney
3B Evan Longoria
UTIL Sean Rodriguez
2B Ben Zobrist

Outfielders (5)
David DeJesus
Brandon Guyer
Desmond Jennings
Matt Joyce
Wil Myers …

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Saturday morning report: Rays at Biscuits

The view at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.

MARC TOPKIN / TIMES

The view at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.

UPDATE, 2:21: The Rays expect INF Wilson Betemit to stay with the organization and open the season at Triple-A Durham. RHP Mark Lowe, however, left and took a minor-league deal with the Indians.

Maddon said he hadn't fully decided on the lineup for Monday, but it would be very close to what he used today, likely with Jose Molina behind the plate.

UPDATE, 2:19: All the Rays who played here spoke well of their time with the Biscuits, Evan Longoria saying it was among his best experiences as he got into pro ball. Plus, Desmond Jennings also played his last high school game with Pinson Valley, losing in the 2005 Class 5A state finals to Russell County team that included Colby Rasmus.

There also are memories for OF Matt Joyce, who played his last college game here with Florida Southern, winning the Div. II national champioinship in 2005.

Here is the Biscuits lineup:
Brett 2b
Argo lf
Casali c
Seitzer 1b
Shaffer 3b
Segovia dh
Motter rf
Hager ss
Rickard cf
Mateo p

DEVELOPING: The Rays have made it to Montgomery, Ala., for today's exhibition with the Biscuits.

The Rays received a police escort from the airport and were given VIP treatment the whole way. …

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Nix traded to Phillies

The Rays gave Jayson Nix the chance to make it to the majors elsewhere, trading the veteran INF to the Phillies on Friday night for cash considerations.

The Rays informed Nix on Tuesday he wasn't going to make their team, and told him then they would give him some time to explore a big-league job elsewhere but otherwise would welcome him at Triple-A.

Their signing earler Friday of INF Mike Fontenot to a minor-league deal was a good sign something was in the works with Nix, who was added to Philadelphia 40-man roster.

In acquiring Nix, the Phillies told ex-Ray Reid Brignac he wouldn't make their team.

Of other non-roster veterans the Rays didn't have room for, they released and then re-signed LHP Erik Bedard, released RHP Mark Lowe and expect INF Wilson Betemit to go to Triple-A.

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Video: What to expect on opening day

Times beat reporter Marc Topkin recaps the spring season and tells you what to expect in Monday's season opener against the Blue Jays.

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Rays bring Bedard back on a minor league deal

LHP Erik Bedard is back with the Rays, signing another minor league deal Friday, giving them important depth at Triple-A Durham.

Bedard, 35, lost out on Tampa Bay's fifth starter competion during camp to RHP Jake Odorizzi, and was granted his release this week so he could pursue other big-league options.

But Bedard enjoyed his experience with Tampa Bay, calling it a "breath of fresh air," and was open to a return if nothing else materialized.

"It's great to have him back in the fold," Maddon said. "I really think he can come up big for us at some point this year. This guy definitely fits into what we're doing around here."

Bedard, a 10-year-veteran, will join the Bulls rotation, giving the Rays another option since RHP Alex Colome was suspended for 50 games for testing postive for a performance-enhancing drug. 

"I'm a little surprised nobody picked (Bedard) up," Maddon said. "He's still got a lot left, there's no question about it, he just needs a little more time to sharpen up. And having him in Triple-A is good for us."

 

 

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For starters, Rays at Tigers in spring finale

The Rays, having wrapped up their Grapefruit League title last night, will play their spring exhibition finale today in Lakeland against the Tigers.

Tampa Bay travels to Montgomery Saturday to play it's Double-A team, but this is the last one against big-league teams.

It's a big day in TigerTown, as the Tigers announced an eight-year, $248 million extension with MVP Miguel Cabrera, with a press conference across the street this morning.

For the Rays, LHP Matt Moore will make his final spring start today, coming off Sunday's outing in which he was struck in the mouth with a line drive. RHP Grant Balfour will also make his last appearance, as will other key members of the bullpen like Joel Peralta and Jake McGee.

A few regulars are in the lineup today, including Wil Myers in rightfield and both catchers are going to play.

Will be posting live updates on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith, so follow along and ask questions if you'd like!

#Rays lineup
Joyce lf
Molina c
Betemit 1b
Myers rf
Forsythe ss
Rodriguez 3b
Guyer cf
Olmedo 2b
Leonard dh
Moore lhp

Tigers lineup
Davis lf
Kinsler 2b
Cabrera dh
Martinez 1b
Hunter rf
Jackson cf
Castellanos 3b
Avila c
Gonzalez ss
Chamberlain rhp

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Monday opener sold out

The Rays have sold out Monday's opener.

It is the ninth straight year the Rays have sold out their home opener.

Capacity at the Trop is reduced this year to 31,042 due to installation of the fans walkways and The Porch gathering area around the new batter's eye in centerfield.

The Rays, as they say, have plenty of good seats available for the other six games on the opening week homestand.

 

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Rays clinch Grapefruit League title

In beating the Orioles 4-3 Thursday, the Rays clinched the best record in the Grapefruit League at 16-6-4.

"Let the grapefruit juice flow,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "And make sure it's Tropicana."

This is the third time in seven years the Rays have finished with the best spring record among the Florida-based spring teams.

For what it's worth, the other two times - in 2008 and 2010 - they went on to win the AL East title.

Overall, it is the fifth winning spring in franchise history, and of the previous four they went to playoffs three times - in 2008, 2010, 2011. They also had a winning sprring in 2004.

 

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