Casilla has three hits in SS win over Rays

BY foxsports • March 4, 2012

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) — Jeremy Hellickson made his first spring training outing a quick one.

The reigning AL Rookie of the Year pitched two scoreless innings for Tampa Bay on Sunday and the Rays lost to a Minnesota Twins split squad 5-3.

Hellickson was on a pitch count of 25. He gave up a leadoff single to Alexi Casilla and threw 16 pitches in the opening inning, then needed only six pitches to retire the side in the second.

"I have all the confidence in the world in myself and I think if I just go out there and take care of what I'm supposed to and just control what I can control, I'll be all right," he said.

"I feel really good," he said. "I went out there and threw strikes, and defense made two really good plays for me."

Rays shortstop candidate Sean Rodriguez had two hits. He also was hit by a pitch, a year after he was plunked 18 times.

Rodriguez also made a nice stop to help Hellickson escape an early jam.

"I'm just trying to find that rhythm and hopefully keep it going until April and not just have it in March," Rodriguez said.

J.R. Towles hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the top of the ninth. Chris Parmelee also homered for the Twins.

Casilla had three hits, including an infield single off Fernando Rodney in the third. The new Rays reliever allowed one run on two hits and a wild pitch.

"I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball," said Casilla, who played winter ball in the Dominican Republic during the offseason.

Playing nine innings in a split-squad game this soon in camp was no problem for Casilla.

"It's a good opportunity, everybody gets a chance to play," he said. "It's all about the health. This year everybody's trying to stay in the lineup."

A day after homering off Twins opening-day starter Carl Pavano, Matt Joyce delivered an RBI single.

Rays manager Joe Maddon expects to see more run production this year. Tampa Bay has added Carlos Pena and Luke Scott to replace Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon.

"It depends on the ability of the personnel on what you're looking for," Maddon said. "We're going to have guys in the lineup every night that you can draw the creativity from, I think."

A major part of Maddon's offense, Evan Longoria, will make his spring debut on Tuesday when Tampa Bay hosts the Twins. The Rays have been cautious with the third baseman since he was hit by a pitch on his hand during an intrasquad game on Thursday.

NOTES: Rays LHP Matt Moore (lower abdominal strain) took the day off after throwing a 32-pitch bullpen session on Saturday. He's expected to throw another bullpen session on Monday. ... Rays RHP Kyle Farnsworth will throw live batting practice to Pena, Scott and possibly Sam Fuld on Monday morning.