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Versatile glove Sean Rodriguez, looking for home with Tampa Bay Rays, shows pop in bat again

Kelly Shoppach, left, and Carlos Peña greet Sean Rodriguez after Rodriguez’s two-run homer in the second inning against the Orioles. Rodriguez also homered on Wednesday.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Kelly Shoppach, left, and Carlos Peña greet Sean Rodriguez after Rodriguez’s two-run homer in the second inning against the Orioles. Rodriguez also homered on Wednesday.

PORT CHARLOTTE — Sean Rodriguez is getting pretty good at this first impression thing.

Wednesday, in his first at-bat as a Ray, he hit a pinch-hit homer. Thursday, in his first start, he homered his first time up in the Rays' 6-5 win over the Orioles.

"Anybody in their right mind would want to start out like that," Rodriguez said.

Manager Joe Maddon, who knows Rodriguez from when both were Angels, said the home runs — Thursday's was opposite field, though also wind-aided — are just part of the package.

"It's how he goes about his business. His work is so good, and the players can see that, everybody else can see that, the coaches can see that," Maddon said. "If you were able to sit in on the meeting that we had with him … he's very impressive … conversationally and with his actions."

Rodriguez, 24, is competing to start at second, but his ability to play shortstop (where he started Thursday, making one error but also some smooth plays) and the outfield (where he will play today) is also important.

Peña NO PAIN: 1B Carlos Peña's first swings since having two fingers broken by a CC Sabathia pitch Sept. 7 went well — a couple of hard grounders to the right side. As Peña expected.

"My hand's great, 100 percent," he said. "Absolutely no issues whatsoever. That was the last thing on my mind. Or better yet, it wasn't even on my mind."

JENNINGS sore, NO BREAK: Maddon said X-rays of OF prospect Desmond Jennings' left elbow showed no problems, but he was still "really sore" and swollen after being hit by a pitch Wednesday. It's unclear when he will be cleared to play again.

Jennings, wearing a sleeve with a pad over the elbow, insisted it wasn't a big deal: "I should be all right."

MORE MEDICAL: INF Willy Aybar is returning slowly from a left-wrist sprain. He was limited Thursday to dry swings (no ball), having to progress next to tee work and soft toss. … RHP Grant Balfour took a grounder off his left wrist — and had the stitch marks to prove it — but said there was no pain.

GAME REPORT: After the Orioles tied it in the ninth on a homer by Justin Tucker off LHP Alex Torres, the Rays rallied for a walkoff win on a single by Matt Joyce.

INF Elliot Johnson, out of options and making a long-shot bid for a reserve job, led off with a triple. After 1B/OF Dan Johnson walked, pinch-hitter Joe Dillon lined out and 2B J.J. Furmaniak was intentionally walked — yes, in the second game of the spring — to load the bases, Joyce lined a single to right off LHP Mike Hinckley.

As much time as the Rays spend on those situations, Joyce said it felt good to deliver: "I just tried to slow myself and the game down."

MISCELLANY: The Rays have interest in longtime Rangers INF Hank Blalock for a minor-league deal. … RHP Jeff Niemann was pleased with his two-inning outing, particularly how he responded after giving up his only hit, Felix Pie's leadoff homer. "I stayed in control," Niemann said. "In years before I probably would have started overthrowing and walking guys when the first hitter got that home run." … With the Rays not televising today's game, the MLB Network will carry the Yes Network's coverage in the Tampa Bay market.

Versatile glove Sean Rodriguez, looking for home with Tampa Bay Rays, shows pop in bat again 03/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 2:53pm]

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