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Rays' Hernandez starts well, finishes poorly

CLEARWATER — RHP Roberto Hernandez's outing went from good to bad quickly Tuesday, but he didn't appear to hurt his chances to win the final spot in the Rays rotation.

Hernandez started very well against some of the Phillies' top hitters, allowing only one hit in four quick innings, throwing only 35 pitches and getting nine ground balls for 10 outs with his trademark sinker. Then over his final two innings he inexplicably allowed 10 hits and a walk on 51 pitches leading to nine runs in what ended as a 10-1 loss.

A decision on the fifth spot will be made after RHP Jeff Niemann, who is competing with Hernandez, pitches today.

Manager Joe Maddon said he was "not displeased" and that Hernandez's overall outing was better than the numbers showed.

"There was a lot of balls on the ground, I thought the ball looked alive from the side and he was really pitch efficient, which is important," Maddon said. "With our regular season defense in the right spot it could be good. So I was not discouraged at all."

Hernandez said he felt fine and didn't know why the results were so dramatically different. "I didn't change nothing," he said. "I don't know what happened. I think the ball was a little bit up."

MOORE WOES: Maddon said he is "curious" to see how LHP Matt Moore performs in the regular season after Moore continued a poor spring with a rough Monday outing.

"He's not been nearly as sharp as we need him to be or what he can be," Maddon said. "I watch him, he's well, he's healthy. His delivery is sporadic where he's on time sometimes and sometimes he's not. He threw some really good curveballs (Monday) and others were bad. … He's got a great arm, he's a young guy. I tend to be on the patient side, we tend to be on the patient side. Knowing his history that he normally goes though these problems early in the season, I'm not overly concerned. Of course, I'd like to see better. And better being not results necessarily but better command of the fastball, consistency of where the pitches are going. That's the one thing we're probably not seeing."

PITCHING IN: RHP Fernando Rodney today makes his first appearance since returning from the World Baseball Classic, where he pitched often and well. The Rays gave him a week off, and he said he is ready to get back into game mode. "The hitters are ready to go, everybody is close to ready to go," Rodney said. "I'm going to try to do the same that I've been doing. I'm not going to change nothing. Just try to throw first pitch for a strike." … RHPs Alex Cobb, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta will pitch in minor-league games today in Port Charlotte.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays (15-15), who have lost six of seven, managed only three hits. … LHP Cesar Ramos allowed two hits over 12/3 innings.

MISCELLANY: With the Rays bringing only a few regulars, OF Drew Vettleson, a 2010 first-round pick ticketed for Class A Charlotte, started in rightfield, going 1-for-3. … New TV crew member Kelly Nash will make her debut today during the Sun Sports broadcast. … Maddon said had 3B Evan Longoria been healthy all of last season "without exaggeration, I think we could've won 95 games."

.FAST FACTS

Family affair

Senior adviser Don Zimmer is excited to be honored with ceremonial first pitch duties at Tuesday's season opener — even though he likely will have his son Tom handle the actual tossing.

"I'm an old man," Zimmer said. "I don't know if I could throw it 10 feet."

Zimmer, 82, will be joined by other members of his family on the field for the start of his 65th season in pro baseball and 54th big-league opener. After missing most of spring training due to health-related inconveniences of traveling to Port Charlotte, he said he is looking forward to being at the Trop for all home games.

Tampa saxophonist BK Jackson, a frequent performer at the Trop, will handle national anthem duties.

Marc Topkin,

Times staff writer

Rays' Hernandez starts well, finishes poorly 03/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 7:31pm]
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