Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays concerned about Rodney's WBC workload

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FORT MYERS — Concerned about physical and emotional fatigue from heavy usage in the World Baseball Classic, the Rays plan to give closer Fernando Rodney five or six days off in hopes he can get recharged for the April 2 start of their season.

Rodney was a key player as the Dominican Republic won the title. He pitched in eight games, saving seven, over 13 days, and the Rays aren't sure how spent he will be when he returns to camp today.

Manager Joe Maddon admitted the number of appearances was high — "That is a lot" — but said the emotional dropoff may be the bigger issue.

"We've got to watch him," Maddon said. "Yes, there is a physical impact. I don't know how that's going to play out by the end of the year. But the emotional letdown right now, let him chill for a bit, and then pick it back up."

Maddon said he'd like to think the experience will help Rodney get off to a quick start, but he was also concerned it could be an issue in August and September. "By the end of the season, you almost have to count these appearances in the total numbers," he said.

The Rays have the opposite concern about C Jose Molina, who got only three at-bats in his time with the Puerto Rico team, but they also will be cautious not to push him too hard now.

"J-Mo, we've just to get working," Maddon said. "Knowing him, he's going to be fine, I just don't know how sharp (he will be) maybe offensively, that's the part. Defensively it shouldn't be that big of a concern."

Overall, Maddon said, "So you've got a guy maybe that worked too much and then a guy that didn't work enough."

Rodney was named to the all-WBC team as he worked 71/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out eight.

LINING UP: Maddon revealed his initial thinking on the batting order, at least against right-handed starters, and the biggest surprise was lefty Matt Joyce hitting second and switch-hitter Ben Zobrist fourth.

That also is one of the decisions Maddon said was not final, but he liked the lefty-righty balance (including splitting up Joyce and Luke Scott, another lefty power hitter) and "the good flow and feel" it offered.

The lineup: Desmond Jennings, cf; Joyce, lf; Evan Longoria, 3b; Zobrist, rf;; Scott, dh; Yunel Escobar, ss; James Loney, 1b; Jose Lobaton, c; Kelly Johnson, 2b. (Loney and Johnson are also lefties.)

RAINOUT: After waiting until nearly 8 p.m., Twins officials called off Wednesday's exhibition due to rain. The Rays will keep their rotation in order, so RHP Roberto Hernandez will still start today and LHP Matt Moore, who was to pitch Wednesday, will work in a minor-league or simulated game. The Rays will use the same lineup, so most of the starters will play. … Scott was scratched before the team left Port Charlotte due to the potential for a wet field; Leslie Anderson was to DH.

VOGT DOWN: C Stephen Vogt, a surprise last-minute addition to last year's opening day roster, was optioned to Triple-A Durham. Vogt was 0-for-25 in the majors. The spring roster is now at 38; the limit is 25.

FULD UPDATE: OF Sam Fuld, out since March 4 with right hamstring tightness, felt good the day after running the bases and is in line to play in a minor-league game Friday or Saturday. Maddon remains optimistic Fuld will be ready for the opener; Fuld said he was "very, very confident."

MISCELLANY: The Rays will break spring camp after the March 27 game in Port Charlotte, then dress/work out at the Trop before the final exhibitions March 28 in Sarasota, March 29 in Lakeland and March 30 at the Trop. … The Rays will be featured today on MLB Network.

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