Erik Bedard hopes to land Rays starting role

PORT CHARLOTTE — Veteran LHP Erik Bedard feels like he has done enough to earn the Rays' fifth starter's job.

But even if Bedard, 35, doesn't get chosen to end a spring-long battle with LHP Cesar Ramos and RHP Jake Odorizzi, that doesn't mean his Rays tenure ends. Bedard has a March 31 opt-out clause but didn't rule out going to Triple-A Durham.

"The opt-out is just because a lot of guys (around the majors) have been hurt," Bedard said Friday. "I think probably everybody would do the same thing. If nobody gets hurt, I'd go with the flow. And if I go to Triple A, I'll go to Triple A."

Bedard made his final audition Friday, allowing four runs and eight hits over 5⅔ innings in a 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays. While the numbers didn't look it, Bedard said he felt good with his curveball, which manager Joe Maddon said was the best it has been all camp, and hit 92 mph with his fastball.

"The other guys I'm competing with are really good. It's hard to make a decision, I'm sure," Bedard said. "They're going to crunch some numbers and go with their gut feeling."

Maddon said team officials had "spirited" conversations Friday and will again this morning before making the call.

Ramos, 29, had the best spring with a 2.63 ERA (11 strikeouts, one walk) in four games. That includes Thursday's 4⅔ scoreless innings, which Maddon said was the best he has ever seen him pitch. Odorizzi, who turns 24 on Thursday and showed flashes with the Rays late last season, went 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA while developing his new splitter, what he called "a huge weapon."

Maddon has said experience will carry more weight than spring stats, and Bedard (6.88 ERA), who has pitched in 10 big-league seasons, has impressed with his personality and pitches.

"It's not easy," Maddon said. "They've all represented themselves extremely well. We've just got to figure out how this thing fits and who is going to give us our best chance to win."

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price said he was pleased with how he felt — and threw — during Friday's simulated game. He tossed 106 pitches while getting into the eighth inning.

"I really commanded the zone," he said; "didn't have a three-ball count until my last hitter into the seventh."

GETTING CLOSER: RHP Juan Carlos-Oviedo acknowledged he won't be ready to start the season due to his delayed arrival from the Dominican Republic. But Oviedo, expected to be a part of the bullpen, doesn't believe he's too far off. He said he could throw in his first big-league exhibition Sunday.

"Every day I pitch, I feel better and better and closer," Oviedo said, with RHP Joel Peralta interpreting. "I wish I was here since Day 1. It's frustrating a little bit. But things happen."

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (14-5-2) had three hits, two by 1B James Loney, and three errors in the loss that snapped a six-game winning streak. … C Curt Casali, reassigned to minor-league camp March 11, got another start as Maddon wants to evaluate him more.

BOOK CLUB: Rays 2B Ben Zobrist and wife Julianna will sell and sign copies of their autobiography, Double Play, outside of the team store at the Charlotte Sports Park after today's game (no ticket required).

ODDS AND ENDS: C Jose Molina, who hasn't played since Tuesday, said he feels physically fine, it's just a scheduled few days off and he might play today. … OF Matt Joyce, sidelined since Wednesday with a stiff neck, said he's feeling better. Maddon said he might play today. … Maddon said he's leaning toward splitting leadoff duties during the regular season between CF Desmond Jennings (against left-handers) and OF David DeJesus (against right-handers).

Erik Bedard hopes to land Rays starting role 03/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 10:51pm]

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