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Rays' Johnson looks comfortable in leftfield

BRADENTON — Rays veteran Kelly Johnson predicted he would have an interesting day Wednesday in his first appearance in leftfield since 2005.

Johnson, 31, joked that he just wanted to "manage expectations."

But he handled himself well in an 8-2 win over the Pirates, getting his share of action in two innings in left. When Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez ripped a double over his head in the second, Johnson knew he couldn't catch it, so he smartly took the carom off the wall before making a strong throw to second.

"I felt all right out there," Johnson said. "I didn't feel too much like a fish out of water."

Johnson, who has been primarily a second baseman, will get some looks in left as the Rays hope his versatility works out for both parties. Johnson is open to the challenge if it'll get him more opportunities in the lineup. He has done a lot of early work the past week and said that when it comes to playing in left during spring games, "the more action I can get, the better."

He said a key will be tempering his aggressiveness and visualizing situations before they happen. But early impressions are good.

"He felt comfortable," manager Joe Maddon said. "I liked it."

GREAT SCOTT: DH Luke Scott has said that now that his surgically repaired right shoulder is healthy, he can get more extension on his swing. And there was an encouraging sign of that against the Pirates with his RBI double to the right-centerfield wall off LHP Wandy Rodriguez. "My whole career before my shoulder injury, I handled lefties," said Scott, who went 2-for-3. "I'm just glad to be back to my former self."

GAME STUFF: RHP Jeff Niemann had a perfect first inning for the Rays (5-1), inducing three groundouts in an 11-pitch session. "Looks like Niemann's ball is really moving a lot … it's diving, which is always a good sign," Maddon said. RHP Jeremy Hellickson tossed 12/3 innings of scoreless relief in his spring debut, allowing three hits while striking out two. … Maddon especially loved the approach by INF Tim Beckham, who fouled off a couple of pitches before his ninth-inning triple. "That's the kind of thing he has to do to play in the big leagues," Maddon said.

PRICE CHECK: Cy Young Award winning LHP David Price said Wednesday morning there were absolutely no issues with his left wrist, which was struck by a batted ball in the first inning of his Tuesday debut.

Price said after his outing that he was fine, and he didn't seem affected at all (his next pitch was 95 mph), though Maddon said after the game he saw a mark on Price's wrist.

Sitting at his locker Wednesday, Price not only said he was fine but held out both wrists to show there was no difference: "Which one did it even hit me on — I don't remember."

Price worked one inning Tuesday and said overall it was the best he had felt all spring. He is scheduled to make his next outing Sunday.

LINING UP: Maddon said 3B Evan Longoria will be back in the lineup today against the Tigers and is on an every-other-day schedule. Maddon said Ben Zobrist will play a lot the next few days, and C Jose Molina said he'll catch back-to-back games (Friday-Saturday) before leaving Sunday for the World Baseball Classic.

MISCELLANY: Top prospect OF Wil Myers was originally on Wednesday's travel schedule, but the team decided to keep him back in Port Charlotte for additional work, specifically in leftfield. He has spent most of his time in right and center. … Maddon said the team's getting closer to its first cuts.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

Rays' Johnson looks comfortable in leftfield 02/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 10:04pm]

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