Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Maddon challenges Myers to win Gold Glove

FORT MYERS — Most expectations for OF Wil Myers' sophomore season have to do with his accomplishments at the plate. Manager Joe Maddon has big plans for his work in rightfield, challenging Myers to win a Gold Glove.

"To me that would be the epitome of him having a great second season," Maddon said. "He can do that. He's a really good athlete, he's got great instincts for the game, he runs well, his arm is throwing a lot better this year. … There's no reason that a guy like that — if he applied himself — does not have that opportunity or can't win the Gold Glove."

Myers, responding initially with what Maddon — who has used this Talladega Nights movie reference before — called "that Ricky Bobby smile," said he has been working hard on his defense and is eager to try.

"I feel like a lot of people just think that I'm a hitter only," Myers said. "A lot of people only remember that (botched Division Series) play in Boston. And I don't steal a lot of bases so people don't think I'm fast.

"I'm looking to go out in my first full season and prove that I can play defense pretty well."

TAKING THE FIFTH: Neither of the candidates for the fifth starter's spot who pitched in the 6-2 loss to the Red Sox on Monday was overly impressive, though Maddon said he continues to be more interested in what they are doing than how they do.

"I'm not worried about the results," he said.

RHP Jake Odorizzi, making his first spring start, allowed a run on two hits, a walk and a hit batter while working into the third, throwing 49 pitches against Boston's top hitters.

Odorizzi continued to make heavy use of his new pitch — a hybrid splitter-changeup he learned from RHP Alex Cobb — with mixed results, though he did get David Ortiz looking at one for strike three. "Nothing crazy good, nothing terrible, it was all right," Odorizzi said.

LHP Erik Bedard threw more than 60 pitches in his three innings, allowing three runs on five hits (including a Mike Napoli homer) and two walks, working frequently on his changeup. Maddon noted Bedard's fastball velocity was up, hitting 91 mph several times and 92 once, but said he asked Bedard if he was healthy, which he said he was.

A third candidate, LHP Cesar Ramos, worked 41/3 innings in a minor-league intrasquad game in Port Charlotte, pitching there so he could get more innings. Plus, the Rays are most familiar with him. RHP Heath Bell also threw 11/3 innings in that game.

RHP Nathan Karns, the fourth candidate, starts Wednesday in Dunedin.

MEDICAL MATTERS: 2B Ben Zobrist expects to be out at least a few more days due to a stiff neck that first sidelined him Saturday. "I talked to the doctor, it's just a very minor thing," Zobrist said, and likely not related to the back tightness that forced him out earlier in camp. He has played in only two games. … RHP Joel Peralta said his stiff neck is improving, but it may be a few days until he pitches again. … OF David DeJesus, out since March 4 with right side soreness, is due back today.

GAME DETAILS: 3B Evan Longoria had two hits, including his second homer. … RHP Steve Geltz allowed a homer to Ortiz. … The Rays (5-3-2) got a run and had two on with no outs in the ninth but got no closer. … LF Brandon Guyer made a running catch at the wall and 2B Cole Figueroa had a dazzling play. … Maddon praised DH Wilson Betemit, who was 0-for-2 with a walk in his debut, and C Ryan Hanigan.

MISCELLANY: Bench coach Dave Martinez, video coordinator Chris "Chico" Fernandez and baseball operations director Erik Neander were among Rays reps attending a meeting Monday with MLB officials on the technical aspects of the new replay system. … Replay was used Monday but there were no challenges.

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