Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez continues strong spring with spectacular catch

PORT CHARLOTTE — So is there anything Sean Rodriguez hasn't done this spring?

There was his near-cycle against the Yankees, the major-league-best five homers and the five defensive positions he has played.

Then came Wednesday, when Rodriguez made one of the best, if not the best, defensive plays of camp.

Rodriguez, 24, playing a shallow centerfield, had to race back near the warning track before making a spectacular diving catch to rob the Twins' Denard Span of extra bases. His teammates lined up by the dugout to congratulate him as he came off the field, and he received a standing ovation.

"When he hit it I was like, 'Damn, it's going to get over my head,' " Rodriguez said. "So I put my head down and just took off running. I went to pick it up again and said, 'I might have a shot.'

"I laid out and found it in my glove when I got up."

Rodriguez, acquired from the Angels in the trade of LHP Scott Kazmir trade, has made quite a case for making the opening day roster as part of the second base/rightfield platoon.

"Surreal," he said of his spring. "You don't really go into camp expecting to have an unbelievable spring. You go out there and do what they ask you to do, and hopefully that's enough."

So what can't Rodriguez do?

"With God," he said, "there's nothing I can't do."

ROSTER NEWS: The Rays made four more cuts, optioning OF Fernando Perez, C John Jaso and C Jose Lobaton to the minors and reassigning 1B Chris Richard to minor-league camp.

The moves were expected, as none figured to make the team. It trims the roster to 45, with 20 more to go before opening day.

Manager Joe Maddon had raved recently about the progress Jaso has made defensively, so the demotion will give him a chance to get more work done in minor-league camp. Alvin Colina will be the third catcher for the rest of spring training.

Perez said he's just happy he's getting healthy after offseason shoulder surgery and acknowledged the need to play more regularly and improve his at-bats from the left side.

Jaso was also pleased with his progress, saying he's a lot more comfortable and confident now if he does get a shot at the big leagues this year.

"Joe said he sees a totally different catcher than what I showed up at Day 1," Jaso said.

CLOSE CALL: Maddon said with the competition for the fifth starter's spot being very close, they likely won't decide between RHPs Wade Davis and Andy Sonnanstine until the end of camp. "It's the proverbial flip of a coin," Maddon said.

GAME DETAILS: RHP James Shields, who said he'd been working on his mechanics all week, looked sharp in the Rays' 5-2 win over the Twins, giving up just one run over five innings. Maddon said he saw "overall better command of all his pitches, better rhythm with his delivery." OF Justin Ruggiano had a two-run triple. RHP Joaquin Benoit got into, and worked himself out of, a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the seventh. The Rays are 11-3 in the spring.

IN THE SWING: RF Matt Joyce (elbow strain) got six at-bats in a minor-league game, going 1-for-6 with a single and saying he felt good.

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

Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez continues strong spring with spectacular catch 03/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 11:26pm]

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