ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't attempt his first challenge under the new instant replay system in Monday's opener, but he came close.
It was the third inning, and LHP David Price had nearly picked off Blue Jays CF Colby Rasmus at first. Maddon thought Rasmus might have been out and considered using his challenge, but he wanted to buy some time so video coordinator Chris Fernandez could give it a look back in the video room.
So Maddon made a deliberately slow walk to first-base umpire Tim Welke for a cordial conversation.
"I said, 'Mind if we wait a minute while I wait for the sign?' " Maddon said. "He said, 'No problem.' "
It wasn't long before bench coach Dave Martinez, on the dugout phone with Fernandez, shook his head, making an obvious signal to Maddon not to use his only challenge.
"Even from some different angles, retrospectively, he may have been out," Maddon said. "That's the kind of call that it's hard to challenge in that part of the game unless you're absolutely right. So I think we went about our business properly and felt good about it."
Then, in the fifth, SS Yunel Escobar threw to first after an inning-ending fielder's choice, just in case C Josh Thole was called safe at second. "If there's any concern about it, it'd be wise to throw to first," Maddon said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: OF David DeJesus left in the eighth inning with a bruise on the side of his right foot after getting hit by a pitch. DeJesus, whose X-rays were negative, said he'll be fine and that he came out as a precaution after his foot felt sore while pushing off at first base.
GOOD EYE: After posting nine runs and 11 hits, the Rays said they had no problems with the new batters-eye structure in center or the fans moving in the now open areas to the sides. "I didn't see anything," 3B Evan Longoria said. "Edwin Encarnacion said maybe they had a little trouble with Price's arm and where (the ball) was coming out — or it could have just been that he was throwing the ball well. I didn't think it was an issue."
ALEX THE GREAT: RHP Alex Cobb makes his first start tonight hoping to carry over the momentum from a breakout season. Maddon said the main difference in Cobb is a growing confidence. "This guy is an opening day starter," Maddon said. "If he's not here, playing for some other team, this guy is very worthy on pitching on anybody's opening day, and he knows that, in a good way."
TICKET TALK: Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg greeted fans when the gates opened and said he was pleased to see how many flex packs were being used. Sternberg believes attendance will go up, but also thought it would in 2013, when the Rays finished last in the majors at 1,510,300. "Maybe if it works out, we would be up 10 percent, which is always a good move," Sternberg said. "But you'd like it up 10 percent over 2.2 million, not 1.5." Sternberg, however, said the team's TV ratings are "nothing to scoff at" and "give us the belief that major-league baseball can thrive in the region."
CATCHING ON: With not much difference offensively between C Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina against Jays RHP R.A. Dickey, Maddon said he started Molina due to his previous success with Price. Maddon said Hanigan will make his Rays debut tonight.
MISCELLANY: Though RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (right elbow surgery) began the season on the 15-day disabled list, Maddon believes it'll be a minimum stay. … Fifth starter RHP Jake Odorizzi threw four innings and around 55 pitches in a minor-league intrasquad game Sunday in Port Charlotte and said it was "productive." … Jays SS Jose Reyes will go on the 15-day disabled list after reinjuring his left hamstring in the first inning.