FORT MYERS — After investing three years and close to $2 million in Cuban defector 1B/OF Leslie Anderson, the Rays may be about to reap some reward.
At least if the early days of spring training are any indication, as Anderson has caught manager Joe Maddon's eye with his increased confidence and comfort and improved performance. Anderson delivered two key hits in Sunday's 10-7, 10-inning win over the Twins after hitting a two-run homer Saturday, giving him five RBIs in two games.
"He looks really good." Maddon said. "He's a different player than the last time I saw him."
Anderson, 30, had a solid 2012 season at Triple A, hitting .309 with 14 homers, 56 RBIs and an .805 OPS, and thought that might get him at least a September callup. Undeterred, he said in Spanish he remains hopeful.
"For some reason it didn't happen. This year he has to do what he has to do to get to the big leagues," clubhouse staff member Jose Fernandez said after interpreting Anderson answers. "He feels great right now, that everything's working for him and he's just looking to open some eyes and get the chance to play."
Maddon said he assumed being more accustomed to the culture and language has helped, and Anderson said that was indeed true. "Right now he looks like he's got a pretty good handle on things," Maddon said.
PITCHING IN: RHP Chris Archer needed 21 pitches to get through the first inning but said he didn't mind falling behind hitters because he was working specifically on his changeup. His fastball was in fine form, hitting 97 mph. … RHP Jake Odorizzi, acquired from Kansas City in the James Shields trade, worked a one-walk second in his debut. "I saw 'pitcher' entirely with that," Maddon said. … RHP Juan Sandoval, the reliever trying to make the team despite being blind in one eye, allowed a run on two hits in his first big-league exhibition since 2007. "I felt happy for myself with what I did today," he said. … Maddon also mentioned the work of LHP Alex Torres and RHP Kirby Yates.
ZO A NO GO: INF/OF Ben Zobrist was in Sunday's original lineup as he wanted to play every day this week to prep for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, but bench coach Dave Martinez convinced him to take Sunday off after playing seven innings Saturday. Zobrist said he felt fine and would return to action today; Maddon said they will watch closely to make sure he doesn't try to do too much.
LONGO UPDATE: 3B Evan Longoria, who returned to camp Saturday following the Wednesday birth of his daughter, is currently scheduled to make his exhibition debut Tuesday, though Maddon said there is no rush.
GAME DETAILS: Minor-league LHP Jimmy Patterson gave up five runs in the ninth as the Rays blew a 7-2 lead. With RHP Jim Paduch available, Maddon agreed to play a 10th inning, and the Rays went back ahead on singles by INF Shawn O'Malley and Anderson and a two-run homer by C Mark Thomas. … Top prospect OF Wil Myers got his first hit as a Ray, doubling to rightfield in the sixth. … SS Hak-Ju Lee made a heads-up play to try to save a run but the throw home was dropped.
MISCELLANY: The Rays say plenty of seats are available for today's game in Port Charlotte against a Boston split squad. … Former big-leaguer Orlando Palmeiro, who worked with Luke Scott during the offseason, was in uniform in the dugout again.