Logan Forsythe's versatility is part of the reason he was sought by the Rays, but the 27-year-old is embracing a first for him this spring training with some of his position assignments.
Logan Forsythe, seen here against the Orioles on Friday, started Monday's game at first base.
David Manning / USA TODAY Sports
By Andrew Astleford
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Utility player Logan Forsythe has experience at a number of positions, his background a reason for his appeal to the Tampa Bay Rays. But even he lived a first Monday.
Forsythe made the start at first base in the Rays' 6-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Charlotte Sports Park, the only appearance he can recall at the position as a major-league player since debuting with the San Diego Padres in 2011. Acquired as part of a seven-player trade on Jan. 22, he's expected to fill a similar role as former Rays player Kelly Johnson did last season, Forsythe's versatility a strength as he attempts to secure a place within Tampa Bay's defensive plan.
Last season, Forsythe started at five positions. He made 31 starts at second base, nine at shortstop, eight at third base, seven in left field and two in right field. He said he had played first base at times before his major-league career began, though he didn't specify when.
"It's footwork," Forsythe said. "It's different positions. It's things of that nature. A ground ball is a ground ball. If you're on the left side, it's different than if you're on the right side. So it's just going to be holding guys on and coming off the bag."
Forsythe, 27, had plenty of chances to show his ability Monday. He was the recipient of pick-off attempts from left-hander Matt Moore, and four of the Phillies' first six outs were earned on ground balls. He also finished 1 for 2 hitting with a single to center field in the third.
Forsythe looked capable at the bag except for one sequence. In the first inning with two outs, a throw from second baseman Ben Zobrist after Maikel Franco's ground ball appeared to beat the runner. However, Forsythe pulled his foot off the base early, an error due to nerves.
"I started leaning a little too soon -- a little too anxious," he said. "I had to keep going. I tried to make it look good. ... Just a timing thing."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said more refinement is necessary.
"He needs a little work over there," he said. "It's more of a road-map kind of a situation. He knows how to catch a groundball. ... He'll get used to that (playing first), but his at-bats were outstanding."
MOORE'S CLOSE CALL
Matt Moore's spring debut included a moment that caused a spike in his heart rate.
In the first, a sharp line drive by Franco hit Moore's glove near the mound and bounced to Zobrist. Zobrist appeared to make the throw to Forsythe at first base in time to beat Franco, but Forsythe's foot was pulled off the bag before recording the out.
Moore, who earned his first All-Star Game appearance last season, finished the 2013 campaign 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 27 starts. On Monday, he allowed two hits and one walk while striking out two on 37 pitches (23 strikes).
"I was happy with the way the second inning went a little more than the first," said Moore, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first.
"I feel like where I was physically, I am in a good place. I was happy with the way it was coming out, especially the breaking balls."
And what about his heart rate on that quick-comeback liner?
"It was already going," Moore said. "I think that's kind of maybe how I got my glove (up) and got a little leather on it to slow it down for Zo."
HERNANDEZ FACES OLD TEAM
Former Rays right-hander Roberto Hernandez had a solid outing against his former team. He threw three innings, allowed one hit and earned three strikeouts on 46 pitches (29 strikes).
Hernandez, who went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 32 appearances last season, was signed by the Phillies for one year and $4.5 million in December.
The game Monday was the only scheduled matchup this spring between the Rays and Phillies. Last year, the teams met four times, with the Rays winning three (twice in Port Charlotte and once in Clearwater).
DEJESUS NAMED TO HOOTON FOUNDATION ADVISORY BOARD
Outfielder David DeJesus was one of seven active major-league players named as charter members of an advisory board for the Taylor Hooton Foundation, recognized as a leader in the advocacy against appearance and performance-enhancing drug use by America's youth.
Joining DeJesus on the board are the Cincinnati Reds' Jay Bruce, the New York Mets' Dillon Gee, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, the Detroit Tigers' Max Scherzer, the Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Wilson and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Brad Ziegler.
Board members will take part in educational activities and record radio public-service announcements, among other responsibilities. Formed in 2004, the 501c3 non-profit foundation has addressed and educated more than 150,000 people.
DeJesus said he was presented the chance to be part of the advisory board early in spring training. To him, the foundation's mission is worth pursuing.
"Steroids aren't something that should be part of our game," DeJesus said.
"We want to keep that out of the game. It's not a part of this game. That's our job -- to kind of be proactive about getting the message out there."
FORTUNE FAVORS THE BALD
The Rays are scheduled to hold their "Fortune Favors the Bald" event to pay tribute to kids fighting cancer. Maddon, coaches and players will shave their heads starting at 10:45 a.m. March 16, before the Rays host the Boston Red Sox at 1:05 p.m. at Charlotte Sports Park.
The public is encouraged to make donations at the game or online at http://www.pcfcutforacure.org. For a $100 donation, fans can shave their heads with Rays players and receive a "Fortune Favors the Bald" T-shirt.
As of Monday morning, 17 Rays members had signed up, including Zobrist, DeJesus, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, reliever Jake McGee and third baseman Evan Longoria.
"This is the third year of our involvement with Cut for a Cure," Maddon said in a release. "It has truly become a spring training tradition for the Rays. For us, it's about being there for the kids and their families. We want them to know they are not alone."