Rays 8, Orioles 5

Tampa Bay leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings provided Baltimore

Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen with a valuable lesson: The

lineups in the AL East can be treacherous from top to bottom.

Jennings hadn’t homered in 42 spring at-bats before facing Chen,

but he collected a solo shot and grand slam in his first two trips

to the plate and added a solo shot off reliever Kevin Gregg in the

seventh to carry the Rays to an 8-5victory over the Orioles on

Sunday.

Jennings, who began the day with one RBI, had six against the

Orioles.

”I felt good from the first at-bat,” Jennings said. ”I felt

like I was seeing the ball good and I was swinging at good pitches

today. … I was swinging at pitches in the zone and hitting them

on the barrel and I was getting to pitches inside. That’s a good

sign for me. So hopefully I can keep that up.”

Signed as a free agent after a successful career in Japan, Chen

previously started against the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox

this spring. Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn’t hid him against

division opponents, and Chen had no place to hide on Sunday.

Evan Longoria also homered leading off the fifth, his second in

two days. Chen allowed seven runs, three earned, and six hits in

five innings. All four runs on the grand slam were unearned after

shortstop J.J. Hardy’s error with one out.

Chen walked two batters and struck out none. He threw 82

pitches, 54 for strikes.

”They’re a great team,” Chen said through his interpreter.

”They have great hitters and they hit me well on my

fastball.”

Jennings belted a tape-measure shot off Chen in the third inning

to give the Rays a 2-1 lead, and he wasn’t cheated on his next

blast, either. He launched a shot to left with two outs in the

fourth after the Rays loaded the bases on Jose Molina’s double, a

walk to Matt Joyce and Hardy’s error.

Reid Brignac popped up before Jennings worked the count full and

unloaded on Chen.

Hardy hit a bases-empty homer off Rays starter James Shields in

the bottom of the first to tie the score after the Rays took an

early lead with back-to-back two-out doubles by Longoria and Jeff

Keppinger.

Later in the game, Hardy, Nick Johnson and Nick Markakis hit

solo homers off reliever Matt Torra.

Shields, the Rays’ opening day starter, allowed one run and two

hits in four innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.

Shields had allowed only one run and seven hits in his first

three starts spanning 12 innings before allowing three earned runs

(five total) and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings against the Pirates on

March 22.

Showalter still hasn’t selected an opening day starter. The

candidates are believed to be Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter.

Arrieta started against the Pirates on Saturday and allowed six

runs and eight hits in five innings. Hunter threw 90 pitches Sunday

in a minor league game.

Chen could be slotted as the No. 2 or No. 3 starter in his first

season pitching in the U.S. He’s definitely in the rotation. It’s

just a question of where he fits into it.

Chen made his fifth Grapefruit League appearance on Sunday. In

his previous start, he faced 26 batters and gave up three earned

runs in a minor league game.

Chen’s actually had been better against major league hitters. He

held the Minnesota Twins to one run over five innings on March 22,

and was 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, two walks and nine strikeouts in 15

exhibition innings.

Sunday’s game didn’t offer the same encouragement, but Chen

noted that he’s doing some experimenting with pitching coach Rick

Adair.

”I’m working on my off-speed pitch, my changeup a lot and also

my timing is important for me right now, so I’m still working on my

timing and delivery,” he said.

”This is still spring training and I felt good today actually.

This is just part of the game. I felt good, really good.”

NOTES: Orioles reliever Matt Lindstrom started a Triple-A game

at the minor league complex Sunday morning and retired all four

batters he faced in the first inning. Lindstrom said he didn’t feel

any discomfort in his right leg. He’s been dealing with a sore

hamstring. … Orioles LHP Brian Matusz will start Wednesday’s

exhibition game against Triple-A Norfolk. He’s scheduled to go five

innings. … Before Sunday’s game, the Rays had scored only 94

runs, second-fewest in the majors behind the Marlins (75). … The

Rays assigned infielder Tim Beckham, the first-overall pick in the

2008 First-Year Player Draft, to Triple-A Durham.