Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Brandon Gomes' strong spring for Rays may not be enough

FORT MYERS — For all the talk from Rays officials about how hard it was to pick RHP Jake Odorizzi as the fifth starter over the other two candidates, at least they made that decision.

Sorting out who gets the final spots in the bullpen may be even more vexing. At least that's what RHP Brandon Gomes is hoping.

Gomes threw two more perfect innings Sunday to continue a dazzling spring in which he has faced 31 batters over seven games (nine scoreless innings) and allowed only two walks and two hits (a .065 average).

And yet he still may be headed back to Triple A.

With RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo not expected to be ready for at least the first couple of weeks of the season, the Rays have two open spots but may keep RHP Josh Lueke, who is out of options, and veteran RHP Mark Lowe, who can opt out of his minor-league contract Friday if not added to the roster.

"I've thrown the ball really well this spring," Gomes said. "And I'm just going to carry that into the season no matter what team I'm on."

Lowe also worked two scoreless innings Sunday, allowing two hits. He has had a very impressive spring as well (0.87 ERA, .250 opponents average) and said he wants to stay with the Rays. Lueke had one rough outing but has looked good otherwise, with a 3.24 ERA and a .233 average.

Because Gomes has an option and can be sent to the minors, he may be the odd man out again. "I'm really not in any different situation than in the last two, three years," he said. "You control what you can, and we'll see what happens from here."

LONG TIME COMING: Oviedo felt great after working an inning in his first appearance in a big-league uniform since September 2011 and in any regulation game since a July 2012 Triple-A outing out due to identity fraud issues and then elbow surgery.

Oviedo worked at 91-93 mph — better than he expected — while allowing three hits, throwing only fastballs and changeups.

"I wasn't really concerned too much with (velocity). I was just basically trying to make sure everything felt good and it felt great," he said through interpreter Sean Rodriguez. "It was a little weird because it's been a long time since I pitched."

Oviedo said he didn't know how long into the season he would need to be ready, and the Rays said they plan to move slowly with him given his extended absence. He can be placed on the DL backdated to his last appearance in a spring game.

GAME DETAILS: LF Matt Joyce, who left Wednesday's game with a stiff neck, returned to the lineup with a bang, hitting a three-run homer off Red Sox LHP Felix Doubront to give the Rays a 4-0 lead on the way to a 9-2 win. … Starting LHP Matt Moore sailed through the first two innings (21 pitches) before having control problems in what became a 38-pitch third. … The Rays improved to 15-5-3, their sixth 15-win spring in the past seven seasons.

BEDARD UPDATE: LHP Erik Bedard's locker was cleared of all personal items, but Maddon said there was nothing new on his status. After losing out on the final rotation spot, Bedard is expected to exercise a March 31 out clause. Another factor: The Rays have to pay him a $100,000 bonus Tuesday if he's not on the big-league roster.

MISCELLANY: SS prospect Hak-Ju Lee will have an MRI exam on the surgically repaired left knee he tweaked in a minor-league game Saturday. Manager Joe Maddon said it is "purely precautionary." … Before Moore was hit in the face by a line drive, Maddon said the Rays were looking at juggling the order of the rotation going into the season, potentially splitting up LHP David Price and RHP Alex Cobb to help the bullpen. … LHP Cesar Ramos said he was disappointed to lose out on the No. 5 spot. … RHP Grant Balfour was to throw in a minor-league intrasquad game Sunday. … Oviedo, on what he got good buddy RHP Joel Peralta for his 38th birthday Sunday: "A cane." … 3B Evan Longoria was scheduled to be off today and spend the day doing a photo shoot for GQ magazine.

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