03/27/15 The Heater
PORT CHARLOTTE — On a day the Rays pitched exclusively relievers, Grant Balfour found himself in unusual, yet comforting circumstances Thursday.
He took the mound in the third inning — something he hasn't done in a regular-season game since 2009 — and took pride in a 1-2-3 inning, just his second outing this spring as he works quickly to get back into rhythm.
The 37-year-old right-hander had a difficult 2014 season, then left the Rays for two weeks this spring to return home to Australia as his father, David, died at age 62 of cancer....
03/26/15 The Heater
Still has it
It has been fewer than five years since Rays manager Kevin Cash played in the majors, so it shouldn't be surprising that Cash (left) squatted behind home plate to warm up reliever Kirby Yates before the ninth inning of Thursday's game against the Yankees. "I was really good at that, warming up pitchers," joked Cash, 37, a catcher for all but five of his 246 major-league games from 2002-10. "It's the other things I wasn't good at."...
03/26/15 The Heater
PORT CHARLOTTE — It had been widely expected since it became clear RHP Alex Cobb would miss the start of the season with forearm tendinitis, and Rays manager Kevin Cash made it official Thursday: RHP Chris Archer will be the opening day starter.
"You don't want to take anything away from Cobb. It was his. He'd earned that," Cash said before Thursday's spring training game against the Yankees. "But we're extremely comfortable with having that guy now be 'Arch.' "...
Rays infielder Logan Forsythe can fill a number of part-time roles as needed, but he'll open the season getting most of the work at second base as Nick Franklin is likely out at least a month with an oblique injury.
"It's unfortunate what happened with Nick ... but it's exciting. It's an opportunity," said Forsythe, 28, who played 74 of his 110 games with the Rays last season at second.
Forsythe leads the Rays with three home runs in 25 spring at-bats -- he had six total in 301 at-bats last year -- and said he's feeling more comfortable in his second year in the organization after being acquired in January 2014 from the Padres....
Linebacker Brandon Magee, who had six tackles on special teams for the Bucs last season, is headed to spring training as a Red Sox prospect today after being waived by the team on Tuesday night.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity they gave me at the time. Right now, I'm focused on spring training," Magee said Wednesday morning as he drove to Fort Myers and the Red Sox minor-league complex....
Vince Kendrick, who played fullback for the Gators and scored the first touchdown in Bucs history in a 1976 preseason game, died Saturday morning at age 63 after a battle with cancer.
Mr. Kendrick, who was one of the Gators' first black football players and would later return to Gainesville as Florida's running backs coach, had a 1-yard touchdown run on Aug. 8, 1976, in a 10-6 preseason loss for the Bucs against the Green Bay Packers. He would play in only one regular-season game with the Bucs -- with a single carry for 3 yards in the franchise's first game, a 20-0 loss to Houston. He also had 71 rushing yards in 14 games with the Falcons in 1974....
As expected, the Bucs were not awarded any compensatory draft picks from the NFL on Monday night after a free-agent spending spree last year that gave four other NFL teams compensatory picks for their losses.
Which stings the most? It has to be Cincinnati getting a third-round pick -- the 99th overall in the draft -- for defensive end Michael Johnson, who signed a huge deal with the Bucs, only to be cut after one disappointing season and $16 million. He's already signed back with the Bengals, who maximized the compensatory-pick game perhaps as well as you can....
03/22/15 The Heater
DUNEDIN — Injuries have forced the Rays to shuffle their starting rotation to open the season, and the top three healthy options will all wind up pitching on the same day this Saturday.
It's not a shell game so much as coincidence, with likely opening-day starter Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi set to pitch in a minor-league game and Nathan Karns starting against the Red Sox....
A gem for Longoria
You see plenty of double plays scored 4-6-3 or 6-4-3, but a 4-5-3? With the Rays infield shifted to the right and former Rays C Dioner Navarro at the plate in the fourth inning Sunday, the club pulled off the 4-5-3. Navarro hit a grounder deep to second that Alexi Casilla fielded and threw to 3B Evan Longoria, who deftly tagged second and threw to first for the inning-ending double play. "It was impressive," manager Kevin Cash said. "We've already asked them to be out of position with the shift they were in, but that's how valuable Longo is. You can stick him anywhere on the field and he's going to be at the right spot at the right time and make the play. … Longo turned that like he's been a 10-year shortstop."...
It could simply be pre-draft misdirection to keep other teams guessing, but while it's widely presumed the Bucs will take former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston with the No. 1 pick in next month's draft, coach Lovie Smith said they're considering other positions for that pick.
"I can see why people would assume that we are going to take a quarerback," Smith told NFL Network's Steve Wyche in an interview from the NFL owners' meetings in Arizona that airs Monday. "There are two excellent quarterbacks that are available at the top. And when you get a chance to draft someone like that, most of the time, people do. But there are other good players in the draft also. I think it's a deep draft."...
The Bucs' search for help at defensive end won't include former USF star George Selvie, who confirmed Friday morning that he's agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Giants.
Selvie, who had 10 sacks in 29 starts with the Cowboys in the last two seasons, wasn't anything expensive for New York -- per ESPN's Adam Schefter, it's just $1.4-million for one year, with only a $200,000 signing bonus. Selvie will be reunited with his former teammate at USF, Jason Pierre-Paul....
Adding another challenger to veteran Michael Koenen, the Bucs signed punter Andy Wilder on Thursday night, the Times' Rick Stroud reported.
Wilder, 24, played at Northern Arizona and was among Division I-AA's top five punters in 2012-13. Bucs special-teams coordinator Kevin O'Dea saw him last week at a free-agent combine for kicking specialists in Arizona last week, and he'll join Chase Tenpenny as rookie challengers to Koenen....
TAMPA — Nickel defensive back Sterling Moore is the newest of three Cowboys defensive players to sign with the Bucs in free agency. He also might be the most motivated to show Dallas it made a mistake in not bringing him back.
As a restricted free agent, the 25-year-old could have been kept by the Cowboys with a one-year, $1.54 million contract. They opted not to tender him, and after visiting the Bucs, Steelers and 49ers in the past week, Moore chose Tampa Bay, with a one-year "prove it" contract....
TAMPA -- Nickel defensive back Sterling Moore is the newest of three Cowboys defensive players to sign with the Bucs in free agency. He also might be the most motivated to show Dallas it made a mistake in not bringing him back.
As a restricted free agent, the 25-year-old Moore could have been kept by the Cowboys with a one-year, $1.54-million tender. They opted not to tender him, and after visiting the Bucs, Steelers and 49ers in the past week, he chose Tampa Bay, with a one-year "prove it" contract....
After a quiet week in free agency, the Bucs have another new signing to announce, as Sterling Moore, a nickel defensive back who started seven games for the Cowboys last season, has signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
Moore, 25, is the third player the Bucs have signed from the Dallas defense, joining linebacker Bruce Carter and defensive tackle Henry Melton. He had 46 tackles last year but was not tendered an offer as a restricted free agent, putting him on the open market....