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Jayson Nix impresses Maddon in Rays camp

PORT CHARLOTTE — Jayson Nix spent the past three seasons in the American League East, so Rays manager Joe Maddon was very familiar with the versatile infielder.

And Maddon liked what he saw from Nix — who played for the Blue Jays in 2011 and the Yankees 2012-13 — calling him a solid pro who "does good work wherever they had put him."

With Nix in camp on a minor-league deal and hoping to earn a bench spot, Maddon's observations have been reinforced.

"This guy is an uber professional," Maddon said. "That's all he's about. He just wants to play the game, play it right, be part of a group and understand what the overall philosophy is. I've known him for a week, I feel like I've known him for the last 10 years. Any manager, any organization would love to have him within the group. He is that guy."

Nix, 31, who has played for five teams over parts of six big-league seasons, said he has heard great things about Maddon and the Rays clubhouse. He has experience at shortstop, second base and third and is hoping he can stay in the mix for a roster spot.

"Seeing them from the other side, the way Joe uses the bench and uses everybody and moves guys around, obviously that's something I've been doing for a while," Nix said. "I'm comfortable doing so, so it fits well."

CATCHING ON: Maddon held an onfield meeting during Wednesday's workout to brief position players on the nuances of the new rules regarding collisions at home plate. In general, the team's philosophy won't change much. "I want to keep it simple right now," Maddon said.

FOR STARTERS: The Rays switched back to their original plan of having LHP Erik Bedard start Friday's exhibition opener. Bedard, competing for the fifth rotation spot, will face his former team, the Orioles.

BACK ON TRACK: 2B Ben Zobrist took onfield batting practice for the first time since being sidelined last week with back soreness and said he felt good. He also fielded grounders and said he expects to run the bases by this weekend. Maddon said Zobrist will probably play his first game early next week.

STAYING READY: RHP Juan Sandoval, who had been stuck in the Dominican Republic due to visa issues, flew into the country Wednesday and is expected to be at camp today. RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo and INF Wilson Betemit are still delayed, though Maddon heard they've been working out regularly. That's especially important for Oviedo, who is slated to be part of the bullpen and spent last year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. "Obviously guys aren't going to be negligent right now with a chance of making the club," Maddon said. "They want to come here ready, and Oviedo has put in all this time."

GOOD CAUSE: The team will hold its annual charity golf tournament today at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Bradenton, with all members of the 40-man roster and coaching staff expected to attend. Proceeds benefit the Rays Baseball Foundation.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Jayson Nix impresses Maddon in Rays camp 02/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 10:11pm]
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