Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Garza dials up intensity in impressive capper to spring training

PORT CHARLOTTE — He would have liked a few more strikes early in counts, but No. 2 starter RHP Matt Garza put a strong finish on his spring with a solid seven-inning outing in Sunday's 8-2 win over Pittsburgh.

"It didn't matter if it was the Pirates, Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners, Angels, freaking Little League, high school, college, the '27 Yankees, it didn't matter," Garza said. "I went out there with a plan today with the intensity level that I'm going to take into a game. That's the way I want to pitch, the way I threw today. Attack heavy with my fastball, keep my breaking balls in for strikes and keep guys off bases — make them participate."

Like RHP James Shields on Saturday, Garza showed good command of his fastball, which manager Joe Maddon considers a good sign as they head into the season, with just short tune-up appearances later this week.

"Obviously both are them are ready," Maddon said. "I like what they're doing — they're pitching with their fastballs first. … We talk about fastball command all the time, how that matters to everything else that he (Garza) does. Shields did it (Saturday), he did it today."

MEDICAL MATTERS: The Rays are feeling better, with C Dioner Navarro (nerve bruise left shin) and INF Willy Aybar (left hamstring strain) showing enough in Sunday's minor-league intrasquad game that Maddon now expects both to be healthy enough to be on the opening day roster. OF Matt Joyce (right elbow strain) remains a question.

Aybar is scheduled to play tonight against the Red Sox; Navarro, who said his leg felt "better than what I expected," will catch three innings in a minor-league game today and should rejoin the Rays on Tuesday.

"They should be fine," Maddon said. "I see them both being ready to go."

Joyce still can't throw hard at a distance, and Maddon said the Rays have to make a decision soon, perhaps by Tuesday, on his status. "It's coming along, but it's a slow process," Joyce said. "I'm trying to be patient with it, but it's tough."

LINING UP: Maddon said he is leaning toward hitting CF B.J. Upton sixth, based on how good he has looked, and dropping DH Pat Burrell to seventh. … Though it's not official, look for RHP Jeff Niemann to remain third in the rotation and LHP David Price fourth, meaning he'll open the second series of the season against the Yankees.

GAME DETAILS: Ben Zobrist had a single, triple and homer out of his likely No. 3 spot in the order as the Rays (17-7-1) jumped to a 7-1 lead and cruised. … 1B Carlos Peña, after two hits Saturday, homered Sunday, and to left-center. … LF Carl Crawford made a nice running catch and had two doubles. … OF Gabe Kapler, who plays mainly against lefties, had a single off RHP Ross Ohlendorf. … Burrell was thrown out on a close play trying to score on Kapler's safety squeeze bunt.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria got a total day off and wasn't at the ballpark. … Peña was in considerable pain after fouling a ball off his right foot but said after the game he was fine. … So much for checking out Hank Blalock at third base: He didn't get a ball hit to him.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Garza dials up intensity in impressive capper to spring training 03/28/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 29, 2010 8:44am]

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