BRADENTON — RHP David Carpenter didn't expect to be looking for a job in mid March. The Rays didn't expect to find an experienced reliever available on a minor-league deal at this stage of the spring.
But thanks to an unexpected decision by the Braves to release Carpenter, 30, the Rays have another candidate for the two open spots in their bullpen.
"It's a little confusing why he's available, but we'll take a chance on him," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're excited to bring him in. … Big arm. Could help us and put himself right in the mix here."
Carpenter, who has a career 11-11, 3.66 mark during parts of five seasons in the majors, signed early in the offseason with the Braves. Atlanta has since added several other relievers, leading to his release last week.
"I'm very, very surprised by it," he said. "Just especially the stuff I was told back in November when I initially signed. … They said come in, show yourself again and we'll have a spot for you.
"But, evidently, something over there changed. I'm not really sure what. I think their idea is to kind of try and go younger right now. They have a bunch of Rule 5 guys they're trying to hang on to without losing."
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: RHP Jake Odorizzi said his primary plan in Friday's start, an eventual 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh, was making more use of his curveball in different situations.
Despite the one Pirates star Andrew McCutchen launched over the boardwalk well beyond the leftfield fence leading off the fourth, Odorizzi said it was a good experience.
"I'm just trying to experiment with off-speed pitches with two-strike counts, and I think that's kind of driving my pitch count up a little bit," Odorizzi said. "At the same time, I'd rather work on it now where nothing matters besides getting my pitches in. I'm happy with the progression I made from last start to this one."
Overall, Odorizzi in his third outing worked 31/3 innings, allowing three hits and two walks, throwing 54 pitches, 31 strikes, and picking a runner off first.
MEDICAL MATTERS: INF/OF Steve Pearce said the tight right calf that has sidelined him since surfacing during batting practice Tuesday is improving, but only enough to start running on a treadmill in a pool.
Pearce said he wants to get back in the lineup as soon as possible — by early next week — to get at-bats, but also knows from previous experience the potential downside of this type of injury.
"The way I felt it, I didn't like it," he said. "I didn't want to push it. I know what can come of it. So I just wanted to … get ahead of this thing. I don't want to be laying around 'til June when I can take care of it right now."
Curt Casali, filling in at DH, left Friday's game after being hit on the right shin by a pitch but is not expected to miss any time.
GAME DETAILS: The Rays (4-6) led 3-1 until the eighth. … INF/OF Taylor Motter's towering homer to left-center hit atop the bleacher seats beyond the boardwalk. … With the Rays infield shifted, former Clemson teammates SS Brad Miller and 3B Richie Shaffer teamed to turn a dazzling double play on a grounder to the right side of second. "Pretty incredible," Odorizzi said. "For both guys being out of position that was one heck of a turn." … Top prospect LHP Blake Snell allowed three hits (all ground ball singles) and two walks during his 12/3-inning outing, but struck out the side in the fifth, including big-leaguers Michael Morse and Gregory Polanco. … C Hank Conger, whose throwing was a concern last season in Houston, bounced a toss to first for one of the three errors that pushed the Rays MLB high total to 18. …LF Desmond Jennings had his Grapefruit League-leading fifth double.
HOLA, DEREK: Retired Yankees great Derek Jeter and Cuban-born former big-leaguers Luis Tiant and Jose Cardenal will join the Rays in Cuba as "special guests" of MLB. Those three, plus MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre, will "attend various festivities, including children's clinics." The Rays leave March 20 for their historic visit, capped by a March 22 exhibition at the Cuban National Team.