Blue Jays 3, Rays 1

With every ball that Jose Bautista launches far over the wall,

the Toronto Blue Jays are more certain he’s back to form.

Bautista hit his fifth home run of the spring, a long solo shot

that helped the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 Thursday.

Bautista, a two-time home run champion, had season-ending

surgery on his left wrist last Sept. 4. He finished the year with

27 homers and 65 RBIs while batting .241.

His drive to deep left-center field was another reassuring sign

for his team.

”He’s healthy. We’ve felt good about him the last three

weeks,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. ”He’s gotten past that

and shown no signs of anything being wrong.”

Roberto Hernandez is feeling better himself, too.

The Tampa Bay pitcher threw six innings, allowing one run on

three hits while striking out two and walking no one. He also got

Bautista to ground into a double play in the first. The only

blemish was a home run by Colby Rasmus.

”Everything was working,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ”His

fastball really had good dive to it. Nice changeup, His slider. All

good.”

By now, most are somewhat familiar with the Hernandez story. He

is probably still best known as Fausto Carmona. It was under that

name that in 2007, at age 26, he went 19-8, finished fourth in the

AL Cy Young Award voting and helped the Indians get within a game

of World Series.

A big contract followed, but Hernandez was never able to

replicate the success he enjoyed that season. His heavy sinking

fastball didn’t sink enough, and he couldn’t locate the rest of his

pitches.

The 32-year-old Hernandez was later arrested in the Dominican

Republic on false identity charges. The charges were dropped after

he completed a work program, and Major League Baseball suspended

him for three weeks.

Hernandez sprained his right ankle last August and missed the

rest of the year. He has pitched seven years in the majors, all

with Cleveland. He was 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA last season.

The Rays, remembering the 19-8 arm and not the struggles that

followed, signed him in the offseason. He is competing for the

fifth spot in the rotation.

”Every game is very important for me,” he said. ”Whenever I

have the opportunity to go the mound, every pitch is important.

Today, I think I did great. I tried to keep the ball down and get

some groundballs.”

Eugenio Velez also homered for Toronto. The Rays’ only run came

in the sixth inning on an infield single from James Loney.

Four Blue Jays pitchers, led by starter Claudio Vargas, combined

to allow only six hits and struck out nine.

NOTES: Rays LHP Matt Moore threw 60 pitches in a simulated game.

Moore needed the work after missing his start as a result of

Wednesday’s rainout. … Evan Longoria hit his team-leading sixth

double for the Rays. … Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings stole third

base standing up for his sixth spring training theft.