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With season start near, Tampa Bay Rays' bullpen nearly solidified

A messy slide: The Rays’ Sean Rodriguez kicks up dirt while stealing second base against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

Associated Press

A messy slide: The Rays’ Sean Rodriguez kicks up dirt while stealing second base against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

FORT MYERS — Unless there's the equivalent of a ninth-inning rally, the Rays' opening-day bullpen will look as it has for the past week, with RHP Juan Cruz and LHPs Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos getting the final three spots.

"It's becoming less up in the air," manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday's 1-1 tie with the Red Sox. "These guys, I hate stringing them out like this. But it's getting very, very close, and hopefully by (today) I'll be able to tell every one of them straight up what's going on. But it's looking a lot like what you're seeing right now."

They have been perusing trade and waiver-wire possibilities, given the alternative of optioning McGee or Ramos to Triple A. Rosters don't have to be set until Thursday morning.

And there was word Tuesday that 1B Casey Kotchman and INF Felipe Lopez, two veterans who were in camp on minor-league deals, will join Triple-A Durham, giving the Rays quality depth. "I think everything's going to work out okay there," Maddon said.

Gun control: Maddon said there isn't much he can say or do about 3B Evan Longoria having an AK-47 rifle in the spring training home he shared with teammates David Price and Reid Brignac until the gun was stolen Saturday.

"I don't know what you would say," Maddon said. "It's a legal situation, and it's his choice. I didn't get upset when he bought a '69 Camaro. It's a personal choice situation. I never would attempt to influence somebody's personal choices. …

"If they were to ask me my opinion, I would give it to them, but if my advice is not sought, then I'm not going to give it. … It's up to him; it's not up to me. It's not my choice."

Maddon said it's not that unusual for pro athletes — in baseball, basketball or football — to have weapons.

A 2 and a 3: No. 2 starter James Shields was sharp in a two-inning simulated game at Tropicana Field to make up for being rained out Monday, striking out four while facing a lineup that included Johnny Damon, Longoria, Manny Ramirez and B.J. Upton. "A nice little All-Star lineup," Shields said. "There's a lot of hits in that lineup."

Shields was encouraged by how he threw quality breaking balls for strikes and maintained his mechanics.

"I feel really good, really strong," he said. "My last four outings of spring training have been exactly where I want it to be. My delivery is as good as it's going to get. If I stay consistent with it throughout the year, I think we're going to have some success."

No. 3 starter Wade Davis went four innings against the Red Sox's A lineup, allowing a home run to Adrian Gonzalez among five hits.

"I like what he's done with his delivery — a lot more consistent, a lot more compact," Maddon said. "I think he's gained better rhythm and tempo from that. I think he looks really good."

Davis said he feels more relaxed and prepared than last season as a result of knowing he has a place in the rotation.

Even up: After a 1-7-1 start, the Rays went 13-7-1 to finish the spring 14-14-2, as today's Tropicana Field exhibition doesn't count in the stats or standings.

"We played well the later part of the spring," Maddon said. "You're always looking to build momentum into the season — pitching got better, the defense got tighter, bats got better, and the energy has been very good."

Minor matter: OF John Shelby III, the son of former big-leaguer John "T-bone" Shelby, was acquired from the White Sox for cash and is likely headed to Double-A Montgomery. Shelby, 25, hit .249 at Double A last season; he was ranked the Sox's 25th-best prospect going into 2010.

Game details: The Rays took a 1-0 lead when Sean Rodriguez walked, stole second and third and scored on Elliot Johnson's single. … The Sox tied it on Gonzalez's homer off Davis. … RHP Joel Peralta worked 10 innings over nine spring games without allowing a run, and Cruz gave up one over the same workload. … There was a mutual agreement to not play a 10th inning as the Sox were flying out for an exhibition in Houston. … RHP Adam Russell and McGee each worked an inning in the simulated game and will pitch today.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

With season start near, Tampa Bay Rays' bullpen nearly solidified 03/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:31pm]
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