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Tampa Bay Rays: Manager Joe Maddon dazzled by pitching depth; David Price ready to go whenever

Best birthday gift

OF Brandon Guyer is a huge fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and went to his first event in Chicago on his birthday (Jan. 28). With a buddy working for UFC, Guyer got seats five rows back and a pre-fight tour of the octagon and met the fighters backstage, getting "starstruck" when he saw Jon "Bones" Jones. Said Guyer: "The best (present) ever. I went to one, now I want to go to a ton."

Worst birthday gift

RHP Jeff Niemann, who turned 29 Tuesday, got a "wakeup call" in live BP when INF Sean Rodriguez ripped his last pitch up the middle and through the protective screen. Niemann, all 6-foot-9 of him, ducked out of the way. "He almost gave me the worst birthday present ever," Niemann joked. "That was a close call." The two hugged after. "… I'll tell you what, he's feeling healthy, because he got out of the way," Rodriguez said. "He got low."

Who is this Ray?

He's an avid reader whose books this offseason included Falling Forward by John Maxwell, Buddha's Brain by Dr. Rick Hanson and Uncommon by Tony Dungy. He was acquired in the Matt Garza trade.

The dish

Today's full-squad workout starts around 9:30 a.m. at the Charlotte Sports Park (2300 El Jobean Road) and lasts until 11:40. Admission and parking free. Driving time from the bay area is 1½-2 hours. Suggested route: I-75 South to Toledo Blade Road, go west 6½ miles to El Jobean Road (SR 776), go right 2 miles, stadium complex is on left. For more information: (941) 235-5025.

Heads up

Live batting practice starts around 11, with Jeff Niemann, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb among those scheduled to throw.

Exhibition schedule

Rays tickets: $9/12-27, available at box office, via raysbaseball.com and Ticketmaster.

Info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297 (FAN-RAYS)

All games 1:05 unless noted

March

3: at Twins

4: Twins

5: Orioles

6: Twins

7: at Yankees

8: Tigers (ss)

at Twins (ss)

9: Orioles

10: at Red Sox (7:05)

11: Pirates

12: Twins

13: at Orioles

14: Marlins

15: Phillies

16: at Jays

17: at Pirates

18: Red Sox

19: Off

20: at Marlins

21: Yankees

22: at Pirates

23: Jays (7:05)

24: at Twins (3:05)

25: Marlins

26: at Twins

27: at Red Sox (1:35)

28: Pirates (7:05)

29: at Phillies

30: at Pirates

31: Red Sox

APRIL

1: at Orioles

2: Twins

3: at Twins

4: vs. Future Rays, 1:40, at Trop.

* Value game, $2 off

Who is this answer: RHP Chris Archer

Joe Smith, Times staff writer

Quote of the day

"I was talking to our scouts that are in town (and) I said, 'I promise you can walk to any field right now, and watch any one of our guys throw and you'll be impressed.' "

Manager Joe Maddon, on the Rays pitchers

Reaction of the day

LHP David Price, asked how he feels to start the Rays' exhibition opener against the Twins: "I'm excited for it. When is it?" When reminded it was Saturday, Price smiled, "I can do that."

Tampa Bay Rays: Manager Joe Maddon dazzled by pitching depth; David Price ready to go whenever 02/28/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 7:18pm]

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