Our video report and photo gallery from the Rays Thursday win over the Pirates. Video by Will Vragovic.
UPDATE, 8:49: While some Rays also will go through drills in Port Charlotte today, a small group will work out at the Trop to get a feel for the new batter's eye backdrop.
Also, LHP Jake McGee will throw in a minor-league game in Port Charlotte today.
DEVELOPING: The Rays are on the road today, facing the Braves - and old friend B.J. Upton - at the Disney Complex.
RHP Chris Archer, who has looked very sharp in spring starts vs. the Red Sox and Yankees, will be on the mound for the Rays....
03/13/14 The Heater
Cal's words of advice
Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, whose company owns the minor-league Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte, was at Thursday's game promoting his fourth children's book, Squeeze Play, about the pressure parents put on kids. "I've always enjoyed the chance to deliver a message to kids and be a positive influence," he said.
Fore Price, trip pays off
The trip up to the Innisbrook Resort on Wednesday was worth it for Rays LHP David Price, who teamed with pro Jason Kohrak, former Buc Ronde Barber and comedian Ron White to win the pro-am at the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, shooting 14 under. "I had a great time," Price said....
03/13/14 The Heater
PORT CHARLOTTE — Thursday's announcement was just a formality really, manager Joe Maddon making official what everyone knew for months: If LHP David Price was still with the Rays, he would be their opening day starter.
But that didn't make it any less special.
"All I know is this," Maddon said, "when you see him here now, I try to visualize him not being here now and the different feeling that would engender. And it would be an entirely different feeling without him being here. So it's really good to have him back."...
The Rays further reduced their spring roster on Thursday, sending eight more players to the minors, including RHP Nathan Karns, who had been competing for the No. 5 starter's job.
Also optioned to Triple-A Durham were RHP Kirby Yates, LHPs Jeff Beliveau and C.J. Riefenhauser, INFs Vince Belnome and Hak-Ju Lee, and OF Kevin Kiermaier. OF Mikie Mahtook was reassigned to minor-league camp.
Karns showed well after being acquired from Washington just before the start of camp, and the Rays feel he will be of future help but was not ready yet. His departure leaves LHPs Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos, and RHP Jake Odorizzi competing for the open spot....
Rays LHP Matt Moore talks about being better Thursday than in his previous outing, but still not as sharp as he hopes to be.
RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo is finally set to report to Rays camp.
Agent Andy Mota said Oviedo's waiver was approved on Thursday and he is expected to make it to camp on Friday or Saturday.
Oviedo is expected to play a key role in the Rays bullpen, and manager Joe Maddon said this week he still felt Oviedo had a chance to be on the opening day roster because he had been throwing regularly in the Dominican Republic....
It was hardly in question as long as he was still with the team, but David Price today was officially named the Rays opening day starter.
Price will be the opening day starter for the third time.
There was considerable speculation throughout the off-season that Price would be traded, but the Rays kept him and manager Joe Maddon said it's obvious how pleaed he is to have him.
"All I know is this,'' Maddon said, "when you see him here now I try to visualize him not being here now and the different feeling that would engender. And it would be an entirely different feeling without him being here. So it's really good to have him back.
"You have to play that mind game with yourself, what would it be like if he wasn't here. Not nearly the vibe that we have going on right now.''...
The Rays are back in Port Charlotte today to take on the Pirates with LHP Matt Moore on the mound looking to rebound from a rough outing on Saturday.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson said he felt good the day after his first throwing session following Jan. 29 elbow surgery.
Here is the Rays lineup:
03/12/14 The Heater
DUNEDIN — Rays OF Jeremy Moore doesn't consider himself a power hitter.
But his mammoth homer Wednesday against the Blue Jays easily cleared the 36-foot batter's eye wall in centerfield and likely went at least 450 feet.
That is, if it has landed yet.
"He crushed it," manager Joe Maddon said.
"It went a long, long way," 2B Ben Zobrist said....
After feeling flat and a bit of "dead arm" in his last outing Saturday, Rays RHP Grant Balfour felt markedly better after throwing 15 pitches in a minor-league game against the Orioles on Wednesday in Port Charlotte.
"I felt really good, felt strong,'' Balfour said. "I'm really, really happy with how it went."
Balfour received some treatment on his arm and got an extra day's rest, and said the results were significant. He also made a decision to ramp up his focus and intensity a bit and said that also helped as well....
RHP Jeremy Hellickson on Wednesday had his first throwing session since Jan. 29 elbow surgery and said it went well.
"Very encouraging,'' Hellickson said. "It felt really good.''
Hellickson made 25 throws at distances of 45-to-60 feet Wednesday, six weeks to the day after Dr, Koco Eaton removed "loose bodies" from his elbow in an arthroscopic procedure.
"It went really well,'' he said. "It felt like I thought. It's been feeling really good, but you never know until you actually get out there and start throwing. So it's very encouraging that it's felt as good as it has.''...
UPDATE, 10:31: Hellickson said his first throwing session went well, as he made 25 tosses from distances of 45-60 feet: "Very encouraging. ... It felt really good.''
UPDATE, 10:29: The Jays say it is still raining and no decision has been made yet on the game.
03/11/14 The Heater
PORT CHARLOTTE — There were still 20 days and three more spring starts until the March 31 season opener when Rays ace LHP David Price walked off the mound Tuesday afternoon, but he couldn't look more ready.
Price dazzled in five innings and 75 pitches in the 7-1 win over the Twins, allowing a run on a Jason Kubel homer and two singles, walking one and hitting one while striking out eight, including All-Star Joe Mauer....
03/11/14 The Heater
The Rays lead 2-0 and need one more win to clinch their second Knutson Cup, which goes to the winner of the exhibition season series with the Twins in honor of Dukes Knutson, the invaluably helpful press box attendant who has worked for both teams.
Zim on the flex
No, the Rays don't have 83-year-old Don Zimmer flexing. But they do have him talking on an entertaining video to promote their new ticket flex packs. See it at tampabay.com/blogs/rays....