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Rays 6, Yankees 2

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP)

With each hit allowed, Chad Gaudin's slim chance of winning the No. 5 spot in the New York Yankees' rotation was slipping away.

Gaudin gave up seven singles, including consecutive hits to Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist that led to a run in the sixth inning, and a Yankees split squad lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 Friday night.

Gaudin, who is competing with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre for the final spot in the rotation, has an 8.68 ERA in 9 1-3 innings. He gave up four runs - three earned - in 2 1-3 innings Friday.

``It's not that I'm not competing, I'm trying to feel a rhythm,'' Gaudin said. ``Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not. It's inconsistent. But tonight I didn't get the job done. No excuses.''

Gaudin followed a powerful outing by Mitre, who struck out seven in five innings. Longoria's double, the Rays' only extra-base hit, came in the Rays' two-run fourth inning off Mitre.

Juan Miranda's home run off Jeff Niemann had given the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

But the Rays had Gaudin in constant trouble in all three of the innings he started.

Back-to-back infield singles by Longoria and Carlos Pena started his problems with two outs in the sixth.

``He wasn't as sharp as I've seen him, but we didn't play great behind him either. We didn't help him,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ``His command was a bit off, but that's going to happen in spring training. There's no one that's really immune to that.''

Miranda and Curtis Granderson each had two of the Yankees' nine hits.

Granderson, playing left field, left the game shortly after being hit on the right hand by a pitch from Niemann in the third inning. Girardi called Granderson's removal ``a precaution more than anything.''

That was a more encouraging injury report than the Rays got about relief pitcher J.P. Howell, who is expected to miss the rest of spring training.

``There's no question he'll miss the start of the season,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon said after game.

Maddon had explained earlier that Howell's tired shoulder was not responding to treatment satisfactorily and that Howell had gone to see Dr. Koco Eaton, the team's orthopedist, Friday.

The Rays shut down Howell for the final 10 games of the season in September, and fitness tests in February determined that he had lost strength in his left shoulder.

Maddon had hoped to build up the shoulder and get Howell in a game by this weekend, but now his return is indefinite.

In the last two seasons, Howell's 13 wins are the most of any relief pitcher in baseball. He has also saved 20 while pitching 156 innings in 123 games.

NOTES: Niemann struck out seven in 4 2-3 innings, including three in a row after Miranda's homer, and gave up his first walk of the spring. ... Mike Eckstrom got the win after pitching 1 1-3 innings. ... The Yankees' only visit of the spring to Port Charlotte drew a stadium record crowd of 7,834.

Tagged: Yankees, Rays, Carlos Pena, Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Curtis Granderson, J.P. Howell, Juan Miranda, Jeff Niemann, Evan Longoria

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