Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Bedard, Bell struggle in Rays' spring debut

PORT CHARLOTTE — As spring openers go, Friday was, in manager Joe Maddon's word, a "nondescript" loss, 4-2 to the Orioles at a less-than-full Charlotte Sports Park.

There wasn't much offense, and veterans LHP Erik Bedard and RHP Heath Bell made rocky Rays debuts, throwing 25 and 24 pitches, respectively, in an inning each. They offered the standard response that they were working on specifics, Bedard his changeup and Bell his splitter. And there were unseen positives.

"Overall, I felt it was a really good day," Bell said.

But for others, the pluses were more obvious.

RHP Nathan Karns, acquired last month from Washington for C Jose Lobaton and two prospects, made an impressive debut, showing a strong curve and nasty sinker during a 1-2-3 seventh.

"I've watched these guys in the bullpen, and you hear different things," Maddon said, "but to see it from the (dugout), he was getting underneath some of those right-handed hitters pretty hard, and then you complement that with the curveball. And he has pretty good mound presence. He's definitely not intimidated by anything. I kind of liked it."

Karns, 26, said the "shock and awe" of being the new guy had worn off and he was just excited to be on the mound. But he acknowledged that making a good first impression made it even better.

"Every time you come to a new coaching staff or a new organization and they continue to say positive things about your performance and your work ethic, it's very re-encouraging," Karns said, "to not only hear that from people who do know you but don't know you."

SS Hak-Ju Lee made his first game appearance since suffering a left knee injury April 20 playing for Triple-A Durham. He had surgery in May and spent months rehabilitating in Port Charlotte.

"I feel great," Lee said. "I'm really happy to come back."

Lee, wearing a brace, played two innings, charging a slow roller in the ninth, then working a good at-bat before flying out to end the game.

"That was important; we wanted to try to get him out there," Maddon said. "He came in on a tough play (on the roller), and he came in without any hesitation. He came after it well. And then he battled good up there. He's not really up there thinking about what happened (to the knee); he's up there playing baseball. That was the game plan."

PRICE CHECK: Just taking the mound today in a Rays uniform will be something of a victory for LHP David Price after an offseason of trade rumors and speculation.

"Absolutely," he said Friday. "This is where I wanted to be, so it's good to be here getting ready for a game. … It's definitely exciting."

Price is aiming for a smoother spring than last year, when because his turn fell on team offdays, he twice had to pitch in minor-league games, and one was cut short by rain. "We have every intention of having a normal spring, just hopefully weather permitting and stuff like that, throwing in all the big-league games, a couple on the road," he said. "Just getting my body ready for (the season opener) March 31."

GAME DETAILS: Down 4-0 in the second, the Rays didn't do much offensively, SS Yunel Escobar was the only regular with a hit — two, actually. … Nonroster OFs Jerry Sands and Justin Christian knocked in the runs. … RHP Jake Odorizzi, competing with Bedard for the No. 5 starter spot, had a walk and a strikeout.

Hey, mate: A group of fans originally from Australia were by the bullpen to catch the eye of countryman Grant Balfour, the Rays' closer. "Just a rowdy bunch of blokes having a good time," Balfour said. "It was fun to see."

In the swing: It took a dramatic finish for Price's team to win Thursday's charity golf tournament. Tim Mullen, one of the team owners, drained what Price said was a 60-foot putt for an eagle to pull them even with Jake McGee's team, and Price's team then prevailed in a tiebreaker. "Just drained it," Price said. "It was a very easy putt to three-putt."

MISCELLANY: 2B Ben Zobrist felt "great" after taking batting practice and running the bases with no back issues. He hopes to play early next week. … Maddon said "not a thing" should be read into the early spring batting orders.

   
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