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Burke Badenhop pulling ahead of Brandon Gomes for final spot in Tampa Bay Rays bullpen

FORT MYERS — With the rotation resolved, the Rays are now close to picking between Burke Badenhop and Brandon Gomes for the final spot in their bullpen.

Gomes is making it an easy decision. He had another rough outing in Tuesday's 8-0 loss — six batters, four walks, one hit — while Badenhop continued his strong spring with two solid innings.

"There's never a good time to have three outings in a row and not throw well, but especially toward the end," Gomes said. "But I'm feeling good and I'm confident I'm still very close to where I need to be."

Gomes, a key contributor last season as a rookie, had offseason back surgery and has not regained full velocity nor command. In 5 1/3 innings over six games, he has allowed eight hits and seven walks and has a 15.19 ERA.

"He's just a little bit off; that's the best way I can describe it," manager Joe Maddon said. "His velocity is probably down a tick and the breaking ball, they're not chasing it."

Badenhop, acquired from the Marlins, has pitched 9 2/3 innings in big-league exhibitions, allowing 12 hits, striking out 11, walking two, with a 2.79 ERA. "I felt like I've been in pretty decent control of my innings," he said.

FULD OUT: OF Sam Fuld will seek a second opinion on a tendon issue in his right wrist from specialist Dr. Thomas Graham at the Cleveland Clinic, then decide between rehab and surgery. Either way, he is unlikely to start the season but expects to be back at some point. "There's a couple ways we can do it," he said.

UPTON UPDATE: CF B.J. Upton (sore back) said he feels better and is confident he will be ready for the April 6 opener. Maddon said he was glad to hear that but that Upton, who has played only part of one minor-league game since his March 14 collision with Desmond Jennings, has to rejoin the lineup soon.

"He's got to get out there and we have to deem him ready to play, too, medically and physically," Maddon said. "He just can't go play. He's had very little spring training. We've got to get him actually playing the game of baseball." Though Upton was swinging well before the injury, Maddon said, "that platform's gone."

MORE MEDICAL: Jennings (sore shoulder) has been throwing the past two days and, after returning to big-league action as the DH Tuesday, said he expects to be back in the outfield tonight or Thursday. … SS Reid Brignac (plantar fasica issue, right foot) played in a minor-league game again Tuesday and said he hopes to rejoin the Rays tonight.

MISCELLANY: Opening day starter RHP James Shields worked seven innings in a Triple-A game, allowing one run on five hits and striking out 12. … The Rays were held to three hits in falling to 7-15-3 for the spring. … There was no action yet on moving RHP Matt Bush, jailed on DUI charges, off the 40-man roster and onto the restricted list.

Burke Badenhop pulling ahead of Brandon Gomes for final spot in Tampa Bay Rays bullpen 03/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 9:15pm]
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