SARASOTA — Manager Joe Maddon made it clear that RF Wil Myers batting leadoff is just a "spring training thing."
But Maddon shook his head in the dugout when Myers, in the top spot for the second straight game, led off Wednesday's 7-4 win over the Orioles with a mammoth homer to center.
Myers, who also singled and stole a base, is 5-for-7 with four extra-base hits in two games at leadoff after going 4-for-26 with no extra-base hits prior.
"The ball is in the air a little bit more, and that's really important because he's that kind of a hitter," Maddon said. "He's going to hit the doubles and homers by the ball being in the air more than likely. That first ball was absolutely crushed. But again, he's gaining confidence and feeling better about himself."
LOWE DOWN: Veteran RHP Mark Lowe continued his case for a bullpen spot with Wednesday's start. Lowe allowed two unearned runs on four hits in 21/3 innings and liked how he battled out of jams. "He was really good," Maddon said.
Lowe, 30, on a minor-league deal, said the Rays are a "perfect fit" and he wants to stay. If he doesn't make the team, he'll likely take his first March 28 opt-out instead of heading to Triple A, hoping for another big-league opportunity. He has given up one earned run in six appearances (81/3 innings). "Physically, I'm as strong as I've ever been," he said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Matt Joyce left after the first inning as a precaution due to a stiff neck. "Probably a couple heat packs and a rubdown and he'll be all right," Maddon said.
failure to communicate: The Rays had two errors, but the only thing that bothered Maddon was the bad infield coverage in the first that allowed CF Adam Jones a rare double steal. With Jones on first, the Rays had their usual infield shift on for left-handed hitting 1B Chris Davis. Jones stole second without a throw from C Curt Casali and, noticing third base wasn't covered, kept going. Maddon said there was a communication error: "That should not happen."
GAME DETAILS: After Tuesday's 20 hits — a spring record in the Rays era (since 2008) — Tampa Bay (13-4-2) had 14, eight for extra bases. "Let's not peak too soon," INF Sean Rodriguez quipped. … Rodriguez, who missed a week due to hamstring tightness, hit a two-run homer. INF Jayson Nix had a solo shot. … Ex-Orioles INF Wilson Betemit had two doubles against his former team. … RHP Josh Lueke had a 1-2-3 fourth on 12 pitches while pitching the second of back-to-back days. LHP Jake McGee, also on a back-to-back, said his Wednesday was more of a "game-like situation." He entered in the third to face Davis and was happy he got him to swing and miss on a curveball.
MINOR MATTERS: Rays closer Grant Balfour was pleased with how he felt and how he threw in a 12-pitch 1-2-3 inning in a minor-league game Wednesday, clocking at 90-91 mph. But his performance tonight against the Twins — in his first back-to-back outings of the spring — will be more telling. "There will be a little more intensity and you're bouncing back with no rest," Balfour said. "That's always a good test."… Rays RHP Chris Archer worked into the sixth inning of a minor-league game, though not particularly happy with how he did during the 91-pitch outing. He went 51/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits, including a two-run homer. "I could've definitely executed some pitches better," he said. "But just simple things I could fix, nothing too overwhelming."
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.