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Odorizzi comes through

ST. PETERSBURG — When Rays rookie RHP Jake Odorizzi was called up Thursday, he said he told manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey he'd do whatever they needed him to do.

Little did Odorizzi know what he was in store for one night later.

Odorizzi pitched 3 2/3 one-hit innings of relief - all in extra innings - in the Rays 5-4, 18-inning victory over the Orioles Friday night/Saturday morning. This came just three days after Odorizzi started for Triple-A Durham in the national championship game.

"I wanted to do everything I could to keep us in the game," Odorizzi said. "I'm glad I could put up some zeroes."

With the bullpen taxed, the Rays needed Odorizzi to carry a heavy load - in a high leverage moment - and he came through in a 56-pitch performance.

Said Maddon: "He really permitted all of that to happen."

Odorizzi also ensured the Rays might have a few arms available today. Maddon pointed out RHP Fernando Rodney (25), RHP Joel Peralta (16), and RHP Jamey Wright (6) didn't throw many pitches Friday.

"It's not as bad as it looks," Maddon said.

with honors: Maddon said 3B Evan Longoria can be the Rays most valuable player every year.

But Friday marked the first time in Longoria's six big-league seasons that he was voted MVP by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Longoria received the award in a ceremony before Friday's game along with the other winners; OF Wil Myers (outstanding rookie) and 2B Ben Zobrist (Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field).

"It was a huge honor," Longoria said. "It's kind of ironic for me that for … the six years that I've been here, including this one, I feel like this has been my most inconsistent year. I feel like this year has been a little bit, personally, disappointing for myself. …

"There are a lot of guys who are deserving. We've had such enormous contributions from so many guys that it really makes it special."

Longoria leads the team in homers and RBIs and has played Gold Glove-caliber defense. He finished ahead of SS Yunel Escobar and Zobrist. Maddon said the Rays wouldn't be where they are without Escobar and 1B James Loney, plus 15-game winner LHP Matt Moore.

"That cannot be overlooked at all," Maddon said.

Myers was the unanimous choice as the top rookie and will be a top candidate for the American League honor. RHP Chris Archer was second and LHP Alex Torres third. Zobrist was a close winner over LHP David Price, with OF Sam Fuld third. Zobrist and Myers were introduced at a luncheon banquet at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater on Friday, hosted by the Clutch Hitters, which presented a $25,000 check to the Rays Baseball Foundation. Longoria could not attend.

"It's not something that you set out at the beginning of the year to win, but at the same time that's something that you hope you can live up to in the future too, when you're considered as one of the good guys," Zobrist said.

Jennings returned: Desmond Jennings was originally supposed to start Friday and bat second, but his neck locked up during batting practice, so he was scratched. But after some treatment, Jennings told Maddon around the seventh inning that he could "do whatever we needed."

Jennings did plenty, pinch-hitting in the ninth, had an infield single, stayed in to play centerfield and scored the winner in the 18th inning.

"I'll take it," he said, smiling.

change of plans: Maddon said they're unsure of who will start Sunday, now that scheduled starter, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, threw the final 2 1/3 innings Friday to pick up the win.

Hellickson said Hickey came up to him in the 13th and asked him how long it'd take for him to get ready.

"I don't think they had a choice but to throw us out there," Hellickson said. "I was happy I kept us where we were at and were able to come through in the 18th."

Though Hellickson threw 41 pitches, making it unlikely he'll make his start Sunday, he wouldn't rule it out. "I'm not going to say 'no' right now," he said.

 

SPECIAL START: RHP Alex Cobb believes today's start against Baltimore is little more meaningful, pressure-packed and intense due to the wild-card implications.

"It's awesome," he said. "I can't imagine being in a situation in September where the games don't mean anything. I wouldn't want to ever have to experience it. I remember my last game last year against the Orioles in September, and we were still in it at that point. I remember driving home and refreshing the score because the Oakland game was on, and they … ended up knocking us out of contention. It was the biggest game of my career at that point. … Those are the games you want to pitch in."

BOUNCE BACK: Escobar, who made a rare error in Thursday's game, came in Friday and wanted to do some early defensive work, Maddon said. "That tells you where our guys' heads are at, and I loved it," Maddon said. On the game's first play, Escobar made a diving stop up the middle and threw out Orioles 3B Manny Machado.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said RHP Jesse Crain (shoulder) felt good after Thursday's instructional league appearance, but the manager had no update on activating him from the disabled list. The Rays officially recalled RHP Jake Odorizzi.

Odorizzi comes through 09/20/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 21, 2013 5:17pm]

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