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Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano among 11 sent down

CARL BE NIMBLE: Carl Crawford leaps over Jays catcher Raul Chavez to score on Ben Zobrist’s double in the fourth inning.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

CARL BE NIMBLE: Carl Crawford leaps over Jays catcher Raul Chavez to score on Ben Zobrist’s double in the fourth inning.

PORT CHARLOTTE — There really wasn't anything else OF Justin Ruggiano could have done. And there was even less he could do about it.

Hit .447, impress everybody with your play and attitude, get optioned down to Triple A for a fourth straight season.

"He might have had the best spring of anybody,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "Right now, he's a major-league outfielder. We just don't have the room.''

Ruggiano's demotion headlined a busy day as the Rays cleared out 11 players, reducing the spring roster to 34, nine above the opening day limit.

The other 40-man roster player dropped was INF/OF Dan Johnson, whose chances were diminished with the addition of Hank Blalock. Johnson was placed on waivers and, if not claimed, also could end up at Durham if, as expected, he accepts an outright assignment.

Reassigned to minor-league camp were RHPs Winston Abreu, Joe Bateman, Jeff Bennett and Richard de los Santos; LHPs Carlos Hernandez and Heath Phillips; and INFs Angel Chavez, J.J. Furmaniak and Ryan Shealy.

Ruggiano, 27, was disappointed but understanding, as the Rays kept veteran Gabe Kapler as their right-handed hitting reserve.

"I feel like I'm leaving here with my head up and knowing confidently that I'm ready, I'm ready for the next step, and I'm ready to stay,'' Ruggiano said. "I respect the Rays' decision but hopefully the next time it's more of an opportunity to stay and help out on a regular basis.''

He said he's taking it better than last year, when he sulked and hit .189 his first month in Durham.

"It's not going to be something like I took last year where I was disappointed and I let it show in my play," he said. "I'm going to take off a day or two and clear my mind, but I want to take the same energy and same attitude that I had here down to Triple A even though it's a totally different atmosphere and more of a mental grind.''

LONG BALL: SS Jason Bartlett hit two solo homers Wednesday for the Rays (14-7) against the Blue Jays, his first two of the spring. "I knew the one was wind-aided, but it helps the confidence, and it helps me get on a roll these last couple weeks," he said.

GAME DETAILS: RHP Jeff Niemann had another strong outing in the 5-3 win over the Jays, giving up two runs over five innings and scattering seven hits. He said he was glad he got stretched out to 90 pitches and got through it when "things weren't really coming easy."

RH closer Rafael Soriano, making his third spring appearance, gave up his first run, a leadoff homer by SS Alex Gonzalez. Soriano retired the next three in order, two by strikeout. "Everything felt good," he said.

INF Sean Rodriguez, making his first spring start at third, made one of the game's best defensive plays in the second inning, charging a slow roller and throwing on the run to get speedy CF Joey Gathright.

INJURY REPORT: C Dioner Navarro (bruised nerve in left shin) was walking around without crutches and said he's feeling better, but there's no timetable on his return. OF Matt Joyce (elbow strain) played catch Wednesday and said "it's gradually getting better." Furmaniak said he ruptured a ligament in his left foot during Tuesday's game and will be out four to six weeks.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano among 11 sent down 03/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 11:41pm]
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