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For starters, Rays at Jays

Several Rays took some early BP today. Photo by Marc Topkin

UPDATE, 6:10: LHP J.P. Howell's return appears set for Friday, and manager Joe Maddon is already starting to think about how he'l luse him, primarily in the high-leverage part of the game along with RHPs Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth. ... The Rays will have only 23 players in uniform tonight and Thursday as RHP Andy Sonnanstine and LHP David Price, who are pitching the first two games against the Marlins, stayed back in St. Pete and will meet the team in south Florida to mimize travel wear and tear. ... Maddon talked with Reid Brignac today about his plan to reduce his playing time and give more opportunity to Elliot Johnson, but Maddon also said he is confident Brignac will still be an every day starter. ... Former Ray Eduardo Perez was visiting with the team pre-game, in town for an ESPN feature he is doing with Jose Bautista.

UPDATE, 6:05: Jays lineup:

Escobar ss

Patterson lf

Bautista rf

Hill 2b

Encarnacion 1b

Arencibia c

Thames dh

Davis cf

Nix 3b

Litsch p

UPDATE, 3:46: Elliot Johnson is starting again at shortstop under the new time-sharing plan with Reid Brignac, as the Rays are facing the right-handed Litsch.

Here is the lineup:

Fuld lf

Zobrist 2b

Damon dh

Longoria 3b

Joyce rf

Upton cf

Kotchman 1b

E. Johnson ss

Jaso c

Hellickson p

DEVELOPING: The Rays are back on the road, which has meant good things thus far this season as they have a major-league best 13-5 mark away from home.

RHP Jeremy Hellickson, coming off his dazzling complete game shutout of the Orioles, will be on the mound for the Rays against a familiar face, Dixie Hollins High grad and former Rays batboy Jesse Litsch, who was pushed back to tonight when the Jays were rained out Tuesday in Detroit.

Evan Longoria, mired in a bit of a slump, was among the Rays out taking extra batting practrice early this afternoon (above).

And a good thing there is a roof here at the Rogers Centre, because it is raining and temps are in the 50s here.

Posted by Marc Topkin at 3:08:30 pm on May 18, 2011