Marlins 4, Rays 2

BY foxsports • March 14, 2012

Anibal Sanchez didn't look sore or rusty.

The Marlins right-hander was dominant in his spring debut Wednesday as Miami beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2.

Sanchez, who had been dealing with soreness in the back of his right shoulder, threw two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out four.

''The pitches moved a lot today, especially my changeup,'' Sanchez said. ''If everything can work out I can have a good season.''

Sanchez's outing exceeded Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen's expectations.

''He did a lot better than what I thought,'' Guillen said. ''First time out, most of the people who have a little bit of pain or were having pain in the past, they kind of worry about it. He just went out and did what he's going to do and pitched a good ballgame. He threw strikes. That's a hard thing to do the first time out.''

The Rays were relieved outfielders B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings escaped serious harm after a scary collision. Both chased after Austin Kearns' fly ball in the fourth inning and were down for a few minutes - allowing Kearns to score on a three-run inside-the-park home run.

''Right off the bat I had an idea that we both had a chance to get to it, and we caught it at the same time,'' Upton said. ''Luckily, we were able to brace for the hit. If not, I think we hit face to face.''

Both were carted off to the clubhouse for precautionary reasons.

''We both had a beat on the ball at the same time and just caught a ball together,'' Jennings said. ''There was no avoiding that one. The ball was coming back towards me. I felt like the wind was bringing it back a little bit. I figured I had a chance to get to it. But he had a beat on it from the beginning. It was just a ball hit in the perfect spot. It's kind of hard to avoid that.''

While Rays manager Joe Maddon was relieved nobody was seriously hurt, he liked the effort that went into the play.

''The thing I appreciate, honestly, is how they're going after a ball in a spring training game right now,'' he said. ''We've talked about that in the past. The fact that we're still playing the game the right way - you don't want to see that happen, but it's going to happen on occasion and we appreciate the effort.''

Guillen was thrilled with the performance of Wade LeBlanc, the left-hander the Marlins picked up in an offseason trade with the Padres. LeBlanc tossed four perfect innings in relief of Sanchez. While the Marlins rotation looks to be set with Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano, LeBlanc has impressed Guillen thus far in spring training.

''If spring training have a Cy Young Award, he would win that one,'' Guillen said. ''This kid is pretty good. He's going to help us. We're trying to give a lot of work to him. He's the best pitcher we have in spring training so far. He's making it tough. He's making people look at him. He's throwing the ball pretty well. Hopefully we can keep him there.''

Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson gave up four runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts in three innings. Things were going well for the reigning AL Rookie of the Year until he gave up a solo homer to Brett Hayes in the third inning.

The other three runs charged to Hellickson came on the inside-the-park home run.

''I'd like to pitch a little better, but I felt really good and that's my main thing right now,'' Hellickson said. ''I felt good enough to pitch better than that. I fell behind after the first inning and just didn't throw enough strikes. The results aren't there right now, but the pitches I've been working on are coming along and I'm getting a little more confidence every time out.''

NOTES: The Rays re-assigned RHP Bryan Augenstein, SS Hak-Ju lee and RHP Wilking Rodriguez to minor league camp. . Marlins INF Greg Dobbs' MRI revealed a slight tear of his left hamstring. Guillen said Dobbs will be out at least a week.