PORT CHARLOTTE — As bad as the full-speed collision between LF Desmond Jennings and CF B.J. Upton looked Wednesday, the good news for the Rays is both are fine.
Upton said he has lower back soreness, but it won't impact him more than a couple of days, and Jennings believes he can play today. But when the two starters fell and had to be carted off the field after converging on a fly ball in the third inning against the Marlins, it was a "pretty awful-looking collision," manager Joe Maddon admitted.
It resulted in a three-run, inside-the park homer by Marlins DH Austin Kearns, but it could have been a lot worse.
"That's something that can end people's career," Jennings said. "We got to do a better job of avoiding that situation. It's a pretty scary situation to be in."
Upton said the ball was hit in the "perfect spot," between the two near the left-centerfield track. Both called for it at the same time, but neither heard, with each seeing each other at the last second and bracing for impact.
"If not, I think we hit face to face," Upton said.
Maddon, assistant athletic trainer Mark Vinson and several teammates raced to check on them. Upton writhed in pain but was encouraged when he got up, with both able to sit on the cart.
"You've got two guys running at that speed, hitting each other, there's no telling," Upton said.
While Upton said they needed to communicate better, Maddon praised them for going hard after a ball with three weeks left in spring training.
"The fact we're still playing the game the right way, you don't want to see (a collision) happen, but it's going to happen on occasion," Maddon said. "Fortunately, both of them are all right."
Said INF Sean Rodriguez: "They both wanted the ball. You've gotta love that."
Upton said he knew Jennings was recruited by Alabama to play college football, but quipped, "I think I held my own in the collision."
ROSTER, ETC: SS Hak-Ju Lee knew Wednesday's ninth-inning at-bat would be his last in big-league camp, as he was reassigned after the game to the minor-league side along with RHPs Bryan Augenstein and Matt Torra. Lee, 21, as he has done for most of the spring, left quite an impression, ripping a two-run single. He acknowledges he has some work to do, but knows what it'll take to get back.
"The beginning of spring training was really good for me," Lee said. "I know how to play like a big-leaguer."
RHP Alex Colome, RHP Wilking Rodriguez and RHP Albert Suarez will be optioned today to minor-league camp.
HEADS UP: C Robinson Chirinos is sidelined with a concussion, suffered Monday when he took a foul tip off his mask. Maddon said he isn't sure when Chirinos will return to game action. Chirinos is competing with Jose Lobaton, Chris Gimenez and Stephen Vogt for the second catcher spot. He has hit .143 in seven games this spring.
GAME DETAILS: The Rays scored twice in the ninth before losing 4-2 to the Marlins in front of 5,278 at Charlotte Sports Park. … Rodriguez made a great bare-handed play to throw out 3B Hanley Ramirez in the fifth. … Maddon lauded the bullpen, with RHPs Josh Lueke, Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta, LHP J.P. Howell and RHP Brandon Gomes combining for six shutout innings.
MISCELLANY: LHP Matt Moore came out of Tuesday's spring debut feeling good and will make his next appearance this weekend, a start in which he'll likely throw three innings. … OF Matt Joyce and Rodriguez will be guests on tonight's "Countdown to Opening Day" show on 620-AM from 7-8 p.m. at the Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda. They will also serve as guest bartenders to benefit the Charlotte County YMCA.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.