PORT CHARLOTTE — The two hits were solid, and the couple of plays in leftfield smooth.
But most impressive of the good things Manny Ramirez did in Monday's exhibition, a 6-5 loss to the Pirates, was break from third base on a wild pitch and race home, sliding across the plate with the Rays' first run.
Even better was his Manny Being Manny explanation of his hustle:
"The game says 'Play Ball,' so I just go and play."
Amid all the new and young players vying for attention in Rays camp, it's hard to ignore Ramirez's efforts thus far in terms of work ethic, attitude and performance, with his dash home the latest example.
"We talk about baserunning like almost 100 percent of the time during practice in the morning, so I liked what he did right there," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's alert. He's buying into everything we're trying to do here. I liked it a lot."
The Rays signed Ramirez to be their primary DH but plan to put him in leftfield six or seven times this spring to prepare him for the possibility of some occasional regular-season work.
Ramirez said he was "kinda nervous" about playing the field, "but if I keep going out there, I'm going to keep getting used to it and feel more comfortable and maybe play better."
With a hard single over shortstop and an RBI single to the right of center, Ramirez is now 3-for-4 this spring.
BIRTHDAY BOY: RHP Jeff Niemann said he hadn't gotten any gifts yet for his 28th birthday but was pretty pleased with what he gave himself, a 1-2-3 inning that required only 12 pitches. "That's a great birthday present," he said.
Niemann looked sharp and felt so good he went to the bullpen and threw another 15-20 pitches.
PITCHING IN: RHP Kyle Farnsworth, the most experienced member of the rebuilt bullpen, also made an impressive debut with a nine-pitch 1-2-3 second. "I'll take that and bottle it and keep it every day," he said. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson, recovered from his right hamstring strain, will throw his second bullpen session today. … RHP Juan Cruz is set for his debut Thursday. … RHP Andy Sonnanstine makes the start today and is in line to step into the rotation if the Rays need a fill-in.
PAIN IN THE CALF: RHP Joel Peralta was hobbling a bit after taking a line drive off his left calf, though he recovered to get the out and stayed in the game. "I have not heard anything negative from (head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield), so I imagine it's all good," Maddon said.
GAME DETAILS: The Rays (1-2) led 4-0, with a third-inning rally featuring a Reid Brignac double, consecutive singles by Johnny Damon, Evan Longoria and Ramirez then a Ben Zobrist double. … RHP Mike Ekstrom gave it all back, and more, in the fourth, allowing a three-run homer to Garrett Atkins plus a run-scoring wild pitch. … The Rays had a chance to tie in the ninth, but INF Joe Inglett was thrown out trying to steal second.
MISCELLANY: ESPN's spring bus tour hits Port Charlotte today, with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk reporting live. … Individual game tickets for the regular season went on sale Monday at all outlets including Ticketmaster and the Tropicana Field box office.