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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields gives up home run but feels good in spring debut

GLOVE MAN: Seminole’s Casey Kotchman snags Jose Tabata’s hot shot and flips to pitcher Alex Torres covering for the out.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

GLOVE MAN: Seminole’s Casey Kotchman snags Jose Tabata’s hot shot and flips to pitcher Alex Torres covering for the out.

BRADENTON — After allowing an AL-most and team-record 34 homers last season, RHP James Shields went out Sunday and gave one up in the first inning of his first appearance of the spring.

"I guess it's only fitting," he said.

Shields was pleased with the other 16 pitches he threw in the 10-3 loss to the Pirates, feeling comfortable on the mound after an extensive winter workout regimen and some mechanical tweaks after his 13-15, 5.18 season. "Overall I felt great," he said. "My mechanics are for the most part there."

Manager Joe Maddon, confident Shields will have a bounceback season, said he liked what he saw and told Shields so afterward. "I'm looking at him just being loose in the arm and the ball coming out well, and he wasn't falling all over the place," Maddon said. "Delivery-wise and mechanically, I thought he was sound."

The homer by No. 3 hitter Andrew McCutchen was somewhat windblown.

CASEY AT THE BAT: Nonroster 1B Casey Kotchman, a former Seminole High star, showed some of the great defense he is known for, ranging far to his right to spear a chopper and complete the play and running down a popup. He also showed some offense, which the Rays will need to see if he's going to make the team, with two singles, the first through the shortstop hole on a well-executed hit and run.

MISTER ROBINSON: If it's possible to make an impression in two spring games, C Robinson Chirinos has. Chirinos, acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, followed his two-hit, four-RBI debut Saturday with a pinch-hit homer to lead off the ninth.

PITCHING IN: RHP Jeremy Hellickson threw a 32-pitch bullpen session with no issues from the right hamstring strain that had sidelined him since Feb. 17 and is scheduled for game action — after another bullpen and two batting practice sessions — by the end of next week. "He came through it really well," Maddon said. … RHP Juan Cruz, a veteran reliever on a minor-league deal coming off shoulder surgery, has looked sharp throwing batting practice and will make his game debut midweek. … Projected No. 4 starter Wade Davis will see his first game action Wednesday in relief of David Price.

MANRAY REPORT: Manny Ramirez will play leftfield today and a few other times this spring for the conditioning aspects of running on, off and around the field, but also, depending on how it goes, in prep for some occasional regular-season duty. "I want to put him out there to see what it looks like and see how he feels," Maddon said.

The folks selling the T-shirts at mannyray.com, with some input from RHP Andy Sonnanstine via mutual friends, are donating $4 from each $18 online sale to a fund for the families of the slain St. Petersburg police officers.

GAME DETAILS: The Rays manufactured runs in the first two innings but didn't do much else until Chirinos' homer. … Three relievers — Jonah Bayliss (2 R, 4 H, 1 BB in 1+), Brian Baker (1 R, 2 BB in 12/3) and Richard De Los Santos (4 R, 4 H, 1 BB in 1+) — had to be removed mid-inning due to pitch counts, though Maddon said not all they gave up was their fault.

MISCELLANY: SS Tim Beckham has been dropped from most prospect lists, but Maddon said, "I really have a lot of faith this guy is going to be a very good major-league player." … "The Hot Stove" radio show airs at 7 tonight on 620-AM with pitching coach Jim Hickey among the guests. … Twenty team employees will help with a Habitat for Humanity house project today in Port Charlotte.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields gives up home run but feels good in spring debut 02/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 27, 2011 7:54pm]

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