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Utilitymen play nice while battling for job

When Nick Green began a rally-killing double play with a sliding stop of a ground ball, teammate Luis Rivas called it "cool."

Green described Rivas' two-strike home run the same way.

The fellow middle infielders said their mutual admiration is legitimate even though they are, in a sense, trying to put each other out of work.

Though the Devil Rays haven't said so, it is believed Green and Rivas are 1 and 1a in the competition for the utility position.

During Tuesday's intrasquad game, both showed some of what is needed to win the job. No reason, they said, not to wish each other well.

"We're cool," Green said. "Everything is fine with him to do good, and he wants me to do good, too."

"It's no problem," Rivas said. "We just go out there and have some fun."

Both provided moments in the Maulers' 5-2 victory over the Thumpers watched by a crowd of about 600 at the Naimoli Complex.

Rivas' clout to left off Dan Miceli gave the Thumpers a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Green's terrific stop at shortstop of Chairon Isenia's seventh-inning grounder started a play that got the Thumpers out of a first-and-third jam and preserved their 3-1 deficit.

Most noteworthy though: Green played every infield position except catcher.

Apparently, manager Joe Maddon wasn't kidding when he said he expects his utility players to be versatile.

He even wants his middle infielders to have outfield ability and said he will experiment freely during exhibitions.

That's fine with Rivas, 26, who has played 553 major-league games at second and eight at shortstop.

"It's better for me," he said. "I'm going to try to be in the right positions and go from there. I can learn by playing everywhere, and that is going to help me out a lot."

Green, 27, who has played 166 of his 206 major-league games at second and two in rightfield, agreed.

"It makes me more valuable to everybody," said the Pensacola native who last season also played third base and a game in rightfield for the Rays. "The more versatile I am, the better chance I have of making the team."

As for which player has the advantage, Maddon declined to say. In fact, he wouldn't even confirm Green and Rivas are the main players in the mix.

Instead, he lauded second baseman Luis Ordaz, who had two hits, scored twice and was proficient in the bunt drills that ended every inning, and second baseman Fernando Cortez, who had a hit and two stolen bases.

"He did a nice job, too," Maddon said. "So I can't say there are any legitimate front-runners right now. I'm looking at everybody."

Perhaps, but it is difficult to believe Green, who played 111 games for Tampa Bay in 2005, and Rivas, a non-roster invitee who spent at least parts of the past six seasons with the Twins, won't get the longest look.

Green was 0-for-3 at the plate but made a statement at shortstop, a position he said he hadn't played since 2000 in the minors. Green tracked Isenia's grounder to his left and slid as he gathered the ball and flipped to Cortez at second.

"It took a bad hop, so it was kind of a reaction," Green said. "I was just trying to catch the ball. But not playing out there as long as it had been, it felt pretty good."

Rivas, who started the game at shortstop, felt pain in the sixth inning when Jack Cressend hit his right index finger with a pitch during a bunt drill. Rivas took the rest of the day off as a precaution, and Green moved over from second base.

"We play the same position, and everybody tries to do his best," Rivas said. "He's going to work hard, and I'm going to do the same thing."

"Hopefully," Green said, "both of us can find a spot on somebody's team."




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