Joe Maddon says Tampa Bay Rays' rotation might match Philadelphia Phillies' staff in a few years

Take cover: The Phillies’ Ross Gload protects his head as Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez ranges behind the second-base bag to retrieve Wade Davis’ throw in the second inning.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Take cover: The Phillies’ Ross Gload protects his head as Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez ranges behind the second-base bag to retrieve Wade Davis’ throw in the second inning.

CLEARWATER — Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked, as so many other baseball people have been this spring, to look back and identify a starting rotation as good as what the Phillies have.

While pondering past possible comparisons to the group of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels (plus Joe Blanton), Maddon also looked ahead to what he said could be a promising comparison with the Rays' own group of David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson.

"The difference is experience," Maddon said. "Stuff-wise, our stuff matches up with their stuff. Among our starters, absolutely — stuff-wise, pitch for pitch, guy for guy. Our stuff matches up. …

"We're maybe a younger version of them right now. Something we can look like in a couple years from now if we stayed together and are healthy, for example, the Braves of several years ago, that kind of thing."

FIVE-ALIVE: It was only the ninth game of the spring, but with the score 4-4 in the ninth and runners on second and third, Maddon went to one of his signature moves, the five-man infield.

Russ Canzler came in from leftfield to third and the others shifted, though it was foiled when Joel Naughton lined a single to right, resulting in a 5-4 loss. The Rays (1-7-1) have gone eight straight games without a win.

"You have to work on it some time," Maddon said. "If you're going to work on these things and they're going to be part of your game-day package, you've got to go with it."

Maddon tried a similar move in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series against the Phillies, though it was foiled then, too.

PITCHING IN: Davis was pleased with his two-inning outing, a homer to Ryan Howard aside. "I'm in a pretty good place," Davis said. … Maddon was enthused with the work of LHPs Cesar Ramos and Jake McGee and RHPs Juan Cruz and Brandon Gomes, suggesting all have emerged as legitimate candidates for bullpen jobs. "I just liked the way they threw, and you could easily imagine a pretty decent bullpen among those arms right there," he said. "They were throwing strikes, their demeanor was good, they were under control of their emotions. … They looked like what we're looking for."

GAME DETAILS: Down 3-0 after two homers and a botched popup by 3B Felipe Lopez, the Rays tied it in the fifth, the big hit a two-run double by Sean Rodriguez, then went ahead in the seventh when Chris Carter singled in Joe Inglett. … RF Matt Joyce, hoping to prove he can hit lefties, singled off Lee in the first. … Inglett misplayed a ball in left.

MISCELLANY: Hellickson (right hamstring strain) did well in a 10-minute, 34-pitch session of batting practice in Port Charlotte and will have another Tuesday and make his exhibition debut Friday. … INF/OF Ben Zobrist (right ankle) and INF Elliot Johnson (left quad) are expected back Tuesday, OF Sam Fuld (elbow) Tuesday or Wednesday, SS Reid Brignac (groin tightness) by the end of the week. … If the scheduled pitchers are an indication (with RHP Chris Bootcheck starting), it would appear the Rays are sending nonroster players to Wednesday's split-squad exhibition against the Netherlands in St. Petersburg.

Joe Maddon says Tampa Bay Rays' rotation might match Philadelphia Phillies' staff in a few years 03/06/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 6, 2011 8:09pm]

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