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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis has strong first outing

TAMPA — Right-hander Wade Davis has said he's a different pitcher this spring, one more comfortable and confident in his second big-league camp.

The Yankees found that out the hard way Thursday when Davis delivered a performance manager Joe Maddon called "outstanding" and "wonderful" with "nothing you can say negative about it."

Davis, 23, one of the Rays' top prospects, pitched two hitless innings against Yankee regulars in front of a sellout crowd, striking out Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.

Said Rays LF Carl Crawford: "He opened some eyes; looks like he has some explosive stuff."

Davis was aggressive, pitched inside effectively and hit 94 mph on the YES Network radar, showing progress from early last season, when he admittedly got "too cute" with his pitches.

"It's a confidence boost," Davis said. "Hopefully, I can keep it going for the rest of the spring. It's early. I know (hitters are) going to get better, and I'm going to get better. It was fun, though. I'll say that."

Davis, who started last season at Double A, said he added a slider while at Triple A and made strides with his changeup, which he wants to improve. Maddon said he has been told by his staff Davis is "not far away" from being major-league ready. And though Davis will likely start the season in Triple A, pitching coach Jim Hickey points out he's "right where he needs to be" in development.

"He's not afraid at all. He's up for the challenge," Hickey said. "He absolutely thinks he belongs. And that's a huge, huge part of it. Sometimes, guys take years and years to get over that end of it, and he's got that. And he's also got enough stuff to pitch in the major leagues."

LINEUP SWITCH?: Maddon said he's considering tweaking the order with 2B Akinori Iwamura possibly dropping from the leadoff spot. Maddon said nothing has been decided but with the addition of Pat Burrell, there could be some changes.

"There's the potential to maybe move B.J. (Upton) up and Aki down, leave it where it is, leave Aki on the top and then fudge it a little in the middle," Maddon said. "I'm just not sure what I want to do yet."

Maddon said he plans to move Crawford to the No. 2 slot, where he hit for most of last year until dropping to sixth in the postseason.

"(The two spot) is where I'm the most comfortable," Crawford said.

GAME DETAILS: Playing without most of their regulars, the Rays scored their only run in a 5-1 loss on Jon Weber's single in the seventh (scoring Elliot Johnson). Maddon was pleased with the team's baserunning and defense (highlighted by CF Ray Sadler's diving catch).

"We just haven't hit our normal stride offensively," Maddon said.

MEDICAL MATTERS: Veteran RHPs Jason Isringhausen and Troy Percival threw bullpen sessions, and both looked good, Hickey said.

"Izzy threw everything and threw everything well," he said.

Also, Maddon said OF Matt Joyce (right calf strain) is feeling better but doesn't know when he'll play.

OPENER SOLD OUT: The Rays have sold out their home opener against the Yankees on April 13, but a limited number of tickets are available as part of season-ticket packages. Single-game tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. today.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis has strong first outing 02/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009 7:16am]

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