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Visa problems baffle Rays' Wilson Betemit

PORT CHARLOTTE — Veteran nonroster INF Wilson Betemit was already going to have a tough battle to win a spot on the Rays bench. Now, after finally arriving in camp Thursday following a lengthy visa delay, he realizes it could be even tougher.

"I know they have a lot of competition here, a lot of young guys that can play. I understand. This is not my first spring training," Betemit said.

"I know I have to come in here and do my job, and because I missed like two weeks, I have to do it right away. It's not my fault, but right now I have to."

Betemit, 32, said it won't take him long to get caught up, as he played winter ball in his native Dominican Republic and was working out regularly at the Rays academy during the delay. Manager Joe Maddon said he expects to get Betemit in a game by Saturday or Sunday.

Betemit said the delay was frustrating and unexpected, as he had not had any previous issues.

"I don't know the reason," he said. "I've got 17 years coming to the United States. They've got some investigations, not only of me but a couple players, they do that, too. They're taking forever. I don't know what happened."

Betemit said he is excited to be with the Rays and Maddon, and happy to be fully recovered from the right knee injury he sustained at the end of spring training with Baltimore that cost him most of last season.

"When I came back to play in August, I was not 100 percent," he said. "I was like 90, maybe 95, but not 100 percent. Right now it's 100 percent. It feels good."

RAINED OUT: Thursday's game against Baltimore in Sarasota was canceled due to threatening weather, and Maddon praised the Orioles for making the decision early (around 10 a.m.), allowing the Rays to get work in at their complex and not waste time traveling.

Ace LHP David Price, who was to start, and RHPs Heath Bell, Alex Colome and Josh Lueke threw in a simulated game, starting on the stadium field and then, when rain fell, moving to the indoor batting cages and mounds. Some hitters faced them, some took swings on their own in the cages.

"The most important thing we got done was that the pitchers threw," Maddon said. "That's always the most important thing. The players could use a day off, especially the catchers. … That doesn't bother me in the least."

Because the pitchers got their work in, the team will keep the rest of its rotation intact, with RHP Alex Cobb starting today in Dunedin.

PRICE REPORT: Despite the shuffling, Price said he got everything done he wanted to, throwing 61 pitches with one "inning" on the field and two in the cages.

As a result, he said the missed start isn't a big deal regarding his prep for the March 31 season opener, certainly not as much as if it came later. "Then it might have been different but right now I don't think so, just being able to get out there and still able to get my work in, still able to have hitters in the box," he said "I felt like I threw every pitch as hard as I could, and it went really well."

Price was frustrated last year when, because of team off-days, he had to make two starts in minor-league games and one was shortened by rain, causing a scramble to get his work in. He said the club had a better plan in place Thursday.

Plus, he liked the decision not to allow the hitters in the cages to swing: "I finally got my first strikeout of the spring. … I punched out a lot of dudes in the cages."

KARNS EYES TODAY: RHP Nathan Karns, who hasn't pitched since Feb. 28 due to soreness on his left (nonthrowing) side, will work in today's game, Maddon said. He was to throw Thursday, but Maddon preferred for him to face live hitters.

Visa problems baffle Rays' Wilson Betemit 03/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 9:42pm]
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