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Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon thrilled with catcher John Jaso's first at-bat

PORT CHARLOTTE — C John Jaso might stay at the top of the Rays' batting order because of his ability to get things going. And manager Joe Maddon was thrilled with the way Jaso started Friday's intrasquad game, even more so that it was at 9 a.m.

Jaso worked a seven-pitch at-bat before singling off Joel Peralta, went from first to third on Evan Longoria's one-out single to left (a maneuver the Rays want to incorporate more this season) and scored on a sac fly to right by Manny Ramirez.

"That's a great way to start everything because all we talk about is the team aspect regarding playing offense," Maddon said. "And everything we talk about showed up in that first at-bat."

The 2½-inning game — won by the House of Davey (managed by bench coach Dave Martinez) 1-0 over Charlie's Angels (led by Triple-A manager Charlie Montoyo) — was staged in part to work on bunt plays (executing and defending) and pickoffs at game speed.

"I couldn't be more happy with what I saw," Maddon said. "They were really sharp. They were after it, and it was very focused. And that's what you're looking for. We try to make a point of the little things being so important. And you just saw them actually take that out to a 9 o'clock exhibition. I loved it."

Jaso will be at the top of the order again for today's exhibition opener as Maddon will begin his deliberations with the lineup looking like this: Jaso, Johnny Damon, Longoria, Ramirez, Ben Zobrist, B.J. Upton, Dan Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac.

"You're probably going to see the top part when they all play together look like that pretty much," Maddon said.

A FOR ALEX: RHP Alex Cobb, a 23-year-old who was at Double-A Montgomery last season, made the biggest impression of the five pitchers with a 1-2-3 inning that included strikeouts of Sam Fuld (looking) and Robinson Chirinos — with Maddon, executive vice president Andrew Friedman and other team officials watching.

"He had a very calm demeanor about him," Maddon said. "I kind of liked it."

"It's a lot of fun," Cobb said.

PITCHING IN: RHP Jeremy Hel­lickson, sidelined since straining his right hamstring Feb. 17, is set to throw a bullpen session Sunday. He'd need a combination of four or five bullpen and batting practice sessions before appearing in his first game. … RHP Matt Bush, the 2004 No. 1 overall pick by the Padres trying to make it with the Rays after dealing with alcohol issues, will face big-league hitters for just the second time today having made one spring appearance for Toronto in 2009. "It feels very rewarding, like a big eye-opener," Bush said.

FOR STARTERS: LHP David Price started the Rays' final game of last season and is all but officially set to work the April 1 season opener. But today's one-inning stint in the first exhibition game is meaningful, too.

"The time is here," he said. "The season essentially starts (today) for me. That's very exciting."

>>Fast facts

Tribute to police

The Rays will wear St. Petersburg Police caps today in honor of the three officers who were recently killed. Stadium flags will be at half-staff, and there will be a moment of silence.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon thrilled with catcher John Jaso's first at-bat 02/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 10:33pm]

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