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Catcher Jose Lobaton, reliever Burke Badenhop appear to have won jobs with Tampa Bay Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE — C Jose Lobaton and RHP Burke Badenhop won two of the final spots on the Rays roster.

Lobaton, 27, will share time behind the plate with veteran Jose Molina in what will be his first extended opportunity in the majors. He was the favorite based on his play at Triple A last season, as well as having the benefit of being out of options, and beat out Chris Gimenez, a pre-spring pickup with more big-league time who was sent to the minors.

Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays like how hard Lobaton hits the ball and how well he throws and that pitchers like working with him, but "there are still parts of his game we've got to continue to improve upon.''

Badenhop seemed the likely choice for the final spot in the bullpen, a product of his good spring and Brandon Gomes' struggles in returning to form after offseason back surgery. Badenhop is a sinkerball specialist and Maddon said though he hasn't shown it much this spring, they "value" his ability "to put the ball on the ground.''

Gomes, who allowed eight hits and seven walks in 51/3 spring innings, said he was not surprised.

"I kind of figured it," he said. "You could tell with the numbers and having not thrown well during the spring. It only makes sense. I'm looking at it as an opportunity to get everything worked out and get back to where I need to be to help the team out when they need me."

FOR STARTERS: Despite a rough spring, RHP Jeremy Hellickson was given the No. 3 spot in the rotation, meaning he'll follow RHP James Shields and LHP David Price in the opening series against the Yankees.

Rookie LHP Matt Moore is No. 4 — scheduled to make his season debut at Detroit on April 10 — and RHP Jeff Niemann fifth. With April 9 off, the Rays may pitch Shields in the fifth game on April 11 to keep him on regular rest and have Niemann make his first start on April 12.

Maddon said the setup was based on the full April schedule, not just the first series.

Hellickson, the 2011 AL rookie of the year, has worked 10 innings in four spring games, allowing 20 hits, for a .408 average, and 17 runs, for a 15.30 ERA. "It's been rough," he said. "Obviously I'd like my numbers to match how I feel, but it's spring training and being healthy and feeling good is the main thing. And I've been feeling really good."

After being hit around in his last outing, he will take a regular-season approach into today's game against the Phillies. "It's getting close, and I need to start doing what I'm going to do in the first game of the season," he said.

GAME DETAILS: There was another injury scare when RHP Fernando Rodney was hit on the right forearm by a line drive in the ninth, but the Rays said it was only a bruise. … Price was exceptionally sharp in a 6-4 win over the Pirates, working seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits and striking out five while throwing 92 pitches. "Where I need to be right now,'' he said. … DH Luke Scott hit a massive homer to right-center that landed on the roof of the one-story clubhouse beyond the boardwalk. "It felt good,'' he said.

MISCELLANY: OF Desmond Jennings is expected to return to the field today, but Maddon wants him to be cautious in making throws, given his sore shoulder. … Minor-league RHPs Marquis Fleming and Ryan Reid were told they will be reassigned. … Executive VP Andrew Friedman and Shields will be guests on tonight's Countdown to Opening Day show, 7-8 on 620-AM.

Catcher Jose Lobaton, reliever Burke Badenhop appear to have won jobs with Tampa Bay Rays 03/28/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 11:45am]
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