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Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton hits ball with authority in first spring training game

FORT MYERS — Before B.J. Upton said anything else after the Rays' 7-3 exhibition-opening loss to the Twins on Saturday, he said: "It's spring training, guys; it doesn't count."

But for Upton — and those looking for signs if he will have a big season — it couldn't have started better. He lined a double to left and lashed a triple to right-center, and looked good doing it.

"For where we're at in spring training right now, I'm definitely in the right place," Upton said. "The key is keeping it where it's at right now and trying to make it a little bit better."

Upton said he liked the triple better, that "to come out the first day and hit the ball the other way with some authority definitely felt good. It's definitely a good sign."

Manager Joe Maddon took it that way: "From a mechanical perspective, he's in a really good spot, and I know mentally he's in a very good place."

OF Matt Joyce also got off to a good start, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning off Twins starter Carl Pavano: "I didn't really expect that coming out of the box."

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price summed up his one-inning, two-strikeout, 26-pitch outing in one word: "Healthy." He was pleased with most of his pitches, though he did hit Twins SS Jamey Carroll on the side of the head.

HELLICKSON RENEWED: Twenty-two pre-arbitration-eligible players signed one-year deals by the team's Saturday deadline, but AL rookie of the year RHP Jeremy Hellickson declined, so the Rays renewed his contract for $489,000, $5,000 less than they'd offered. Players who opt to be renewed usually do so on principle because they have no leverage. Hellickson, represented by hard-line agent Scott Boras, said, "It was just a matter of following the advice I was given. Right now I think that was the best thing for me to do, and now I'm ready to play baseball."

MEDICAL MATTERS: 3B Evan Longoria said his bruised right hand felt better but was still swollen, so his exhibition debut will be pushed back to Tuesday. Maddon had mentioned Monday, but Longoria said that would be "silly" because it's early in the spring and "the importance is getting it 100 percent."

LHP Matt Moore returned to the mound for the first time in eight days, throwing 32 pitches during a bullpen session with no issues from the lower abdominal strain that had sidelined him.

GAME DETAILS: Joyce's homer gave the Rays a 2-0 lead, but the Twins rallied off some young pitchers. … Maddon singled out the work of RHPs Chris Archer, Alex Colome (who hit 98 mph) and Dane De La Rosa (who struck out the side), and SS Tim Beckham, who made a diving stop: "This guy's a shortstop."

Tampa Bay Rays' B.J. Upton hits ball with authority in first spring training game 03/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 8:11pm]
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