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Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon says bullpen is likely settled

PORT CHARLOTTE — Manager Joe Maddon said the battle for the three open bullpen spots is relatively settled, though he isn't ready to name names. Plus, there could be some new names as the Rays explore trade and waiver-wire acquisitions as other teams make their final decisions over the next few days.

"We have a good idea what we like, but they're definitely still in play," Maddon said. "There's always a chance for a deal to be made, too. You've always got that. Based on what we have here right now, if that remains static, we'll know before (Wednesday's final exhibition). If something were to happen acquisition-wise, then of course that would change."

The three relievers who appear to have won the jobs — as of now — are veteran RHP Juan Cruz and LHPs Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos.

Maddon acknowledged that Rule 5 LHP Cesar Cabral has impressed enough to be "a wrench-thrower," but it still appears more likely the Rays will trade him than keep him. He wasn't as sharp Wednesday as he had been, allowing two hits and two walks in the ninth. Other candidates are RHPs Rob Delaney and Cory Wade.

The other four spots are expected to be filled by RHPs Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Adam Russell and Andy Sonnanstine.

SHIELDS UP: RHP James Shields, the No. 2 starter, had an impressive outing in a 4-1 win, throwing seven shutout innings at a Phillies lineup that included Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard and needing only 87 pitches to do so. "Eighty-seven and seven — I'll take that all day, every day," Shields said.

Maddon noted how well Shields used his curveball and his command of his fastball. "That is some really good Shieldsy right there," Maddon said.

CATCHING ON: C John Jaso remains "uncomfortable" as a result of being hit in the groin by a foul ball Saturday, and with no set return date, there is a possibility the Rays might have to start looking at alternatives (probably Jose Lobaton?) for the opening day roster. "If he's not responding well, if the pain threshold is not going down enough, we may have to," Maddon said. "But as of right now we're not there yet."

Jaso said he was "still feeling it" and was told it could take up to six weeks to feel normal.

TRAVELIN' MAN: OF/DH Manny Ramirez offered to make the long road trip to Kissimmee today, but Maddon, after initially agreeing, decided after the game to keep him home. Ramirez, who has been playing almost every day, is hitting .350 with a 1.029 OPS through 47 spring plate appearances. He doubled (sliding in headfirst), singled and walked Wednesday.

The Rays have been pleased with how hard Ramirez has been working and with the adjustment he made early in camp to his swing, making his bat quicker. "He'd gotten in some bad habits," Maddon said.

OF Johnny Damon and Farnsworth, who both live in the Orlando area, will make the trip.

PITCHING IN: RHP Wade Davis is set to go 90-plus pitches today, coming off a rough outing in Fort Myers against the Twins (8 R, 9 H, 2 BB, 31/3 IP) that followed a bout with the flu. "I'm feeling a lot better now," he said. "This is one where you want to have success." … Russell, who has allowed 24 baserunners in eight innings, made some adjustments during a Tuesday bullpen session with pitching coach Jim Hickey, assistant Stan Boroski and special adviser Dave Eiland and will work today in a minor-league game.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays won for the 11th time in their past 16 games to improve to 12-12-1. … Evan Longoria hit his third homer of the spring. … C Kelly Shoppach had the first complete game of the spring, playing all nine innings. … 1B candidate Casey Kotchman had another hit to hike his average to .386.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon says bullpen is likely settled 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:11pm]

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