Rays 5, Blue Jays 3
The Tampa Bay Rays hope a strong finish in spring training will
help them get off to another quick start in the regular season.
Evan Longoria homered and B.J. Upton snapped a seventh-inning
tie with a two-run single, helping the defending AL East champions
beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 on Wednesday. The victory enabled
Rays to complete their exhibition schedule with a 15-14-2 record
after beginning 1-7-1.
The last two times the Rays had a winning record in spring
training, Tampa Bay went on to win the division title.
”I just thought we played well,” manager Joe Maddon said,
”and that’s all we’re looking for.”
Elliot Johnson also hit a solo homer for the Rays. Jose Bautista
had a RBI single and Adam Lind drove in two runs with a
third-inning double for the Blue Jays.
Both teams open the regular season at home on Friday night, with
Tampa Bay facing the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto getting started
against the Minnesota Twins.
In addition to playing better after the slow exhibition start,
the Rays head into their opener with just one player – reliever
J.P. Howell, who missed all of 2010 after having shoulder surgery –
bound for the disabled list. The left-hander is expected to run
some time in May.
”It’s great to go into the season healthy,” Maddon said.
”That’s one of your biggest goals. … J.P’s making some really
good progress also.”
Longoria homered off Blue Jays starter Jo Jo Reyes. Upton scored
on the back end of a delayed steal in the third inning, then
delivered his winning hit off Marc Rzepczynski in the seventh.
Toronto scored all three of its runs off Rays starter Jeff
Niemann, who allowed three runs and four hits in four innings. The
6-foot-9 right-hander walked one and struck out two while throwing
65 pitches in his final tuneup for Tampa Bay’s fourth game of the
season, at home against the Los Angeles Angels.
Reyes allowed two runs on one hit, walked three and struck out
six in four innings. Will Ledezma allowed Johnson’s home run, which
made it 3-all in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Bautista went 2 for 2 to finish with a .400 batting
average (24 for 60) and a team-high 14 RBIs. Toronto’s 16-14 record
was the best among AL teams.
Rays designated hitter Manny Ramirez was excused from the finale
to attend to a personal matter.
”I found out about it two days ago, so we talked and I said
there’s no problem, just take care of everything and come back,”
Maddon said. ”It’s something that he really had to do today, so I
was good with it.”
Ramirez is expected to return before Friday’s opener. The
12-time All-Star, one of Tampa Bay’s two biggest offseason
acquisitions, batted .311 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 19