Notes: Hurlers show promise
Rays pleased with performance of pitching staff vs. Reds
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Despite Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Reds, Rays skipper Joe Maddon was pleased with the way things developed throughout the game on the mound. First, James Shields, who is a possibility for the No. 2 starter, breezed through his two innings, allowing only one hit while striking out two.
Then, Brian Stokes and Al Reyes, who are expected to add some depth in middle relief, combined to toss three scoreless innings.
Finally, after Gary Glover's difficult two innings, in which the 6-foot-5 reliever gave up three runs on four consecutive hits in sixth, Andy Sonnanstine and Juan Salas each tossed a scoreless frame.
"Overall, we pitched well," said Maddon. "Shields' focus was great and he located the ball well. He threw the cutter a few times and his velocity looked good. The other guys were pounding the zone. We're trying to become more of a strike-throwing team, and I liked what I saw today -- nice fastballs with some good offspeed stuff."
Shields, who went 6-8 with a 4.84 ERA last season, worked quick in his short outing, tossing 24 pitches. The 6-foot-4 righty even showed a bit of tenacity in the second when, after giving up a leadoff single to Adam Dunn, he struck out Jeff Conine looking and then struck out Mark Bellhorn on four pitches.
"I think I'm on the right track right now," said Shields, who said he expects to pitch three innings in his next start. "My main concern is to stay healthy and to keep working on things each outing.
"I'm pleased with the way things went and I'm right where I need to be. Overall, I think all the starters have been doing their job, as far as keeping the team in the game."
Maddon said Shields' mentality has matured immensely over the past year and feels the right-hander has the potential to be one of the better pitchers in the Majors.
"I honestly thought he was an up-and-comer last year, and I feel now he's had that year to progress," said Maddon, who felt it was too early to name Shields as an Opening Day or No. 2 starter. "His fastball isn't the 100-mph range type, but he has ability to locate it well, which is key. Then, of course, he has the changeup and the cutter and he's developed the breaking ball. You combine that with his competitive nature, and he's got the makeup to be a quality pitcher."
Shields worked on his breaking ball throughout last season and said he is at the point where he can throw it when he needs to. Because of his quick work on Tuesday, though, it wasn't necessary.
"My breaking ball is coming along real nice," said Shields, who threw his fastball, cutter and changeup during Tuesday's game. "I have a lot of confidence now to throw it. Last year, I had to learn to throw it and I went through some struggles with it. But now, it's all about feeling comfortable and knowing that I can throw it whenever it's needed."
After Shields left, Stokes came in and retired the side in the third, and after allowing a one-out single in the fourth, he received some help from Delmon Young, who doubled up Scott Hatteberg after snagging a deep drive in right by Dunn.
"My arm feels strong and I was able to throw the fastball with ease," said Reyes, who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery after tearing the ligament in his right elbow at the end of the 2005 season with the Cardinals. "I don't have any apprehension about my pitches, which is good for my confidence. I think it will get better and better each time."
Maddon said Reyes, who is a non-roster invitee, has a good chance to make the Opening Day roster and was pleased with his performance on Tuesday.
"Al's changeup gets there and kind of disintegrates," said Maddon. "There's a good shot for Reyes to make the squad. He locates his fastball good and he uses his changeup well."
Maddon was also pleased with Sonnanstine, who is a non-roster invitee.
"To watch him throw, you can see a little bit of creativity," Maddon said of Sonnanstine, who went 15-8 last year with Double-A Montgomery. "Sometimes, I think he makes it up as he goes along. Few people can do that. He's very bright and has a good feel for pitching."
Whereas Maddon said the 23-year-old righty probably won't make the Opening Day roster, the Rays skipper said Salas most likely will.
"[Salas'] ball naturally cuts, and we're working on the sinker in," said Maddon. "If we can get the ball moving both sides, then he'll be really good."
It's a pitching situation from both the front and back end, which shows tons of promise for the season.
Test drive: Maddon came across as a bit of a clairvoyant after he talked at length before Tuesday's game about making changes to the batting order. Having Young bat third behind Carl Crawford was simply a "test drive" for the next two or three days in order to generate some offense.
"We're going to see if we can have Carl be a table setter for Delmon," said Maddon. "The biggest thing is Carl getting on base, which he's going to be able to do. But then, part of the interaction is to have Delmon be patient enough to let Carl run on occasion. That will set up the chance for RBIs."
In the first inning, as fate would have it, Crawford reached after being hit by a pitch and then stole second on the first pitch from Eric Milton to Young. Three pitches later, with Crawford running on the throw home, Young ripped a line-drive single to left field, easily scoring Crawford.
"I do believe that Delmon has a knack for RBIs," Maddon said. "Not that Carl doesn't, but it's just that Delmon's ability to use all fields and the way he can fight off pitches and get some singles to drop in helps with Carl on the basepaths. He can be a high-end RBI guy because of his ability to combine the power with his knack for getting those types of hits. We'll see if this works, and then we'll go from there."
This and that: Casey Fossum said he is feeling fine after tossing an 80-pitch bullpen session. The left-hander soft tossed on Tuesday and is expected to throw another bullpen session on Thursday. "I like the way the breaking stuff was coming out and I'm really pleased with the way things are going," said Fossum. "I feel strong and I'm getting closer and closer [to throwing in a game]." ... Greg Norton went 2-for-3 with a double that hit off the wall in right field in Tuesday's game. ... Glover, a non-roster invitee, gave up four hits and three runs. ... Doug Waechter and Shinji Mori were re-assigned to Minor League camp following Tuesday's game.
Seuss Field: Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo donned red and white striped top hats and read Dr. Seuss' "Cat in the Hat" to students from Campbell Park Elementary School prior to the game against the Reds on Tuesday as part of the National Education Association's Read Across America. The pitchers gathered on the left-field berm with the Cat in the Hat mascot and took turns reading sections of the book to the approximately 300 first and second graders, who also sported the Dr. Seuss hats. Camp read parts of the book in English and Lugo delighted the kids with his Spanish rendition. Fans later got into the act when they received top hats during the game.
Game on: Eight pitchers headed over to the Naimoli Complex after morning workouts to take part in the XOS Technologies SportMotion analysis. Maddon said he had met representatives from the Sanford, Fla.-based company during Winter Meetings in Orlando.
"We always want to stay ahead of the curve and this is something experimental, to see if it's something we want," said Maddon. "The pitchers are our initial guinea pigs, and they're going to be kind of like they're on individual video games. We're all for the new type of technology, if it can help."
The video evaluation involved attaching several electrode patches to each player, who wore a specialized spandex suit, and then capturing five to nine repetitions of each pitch to create 3D animations. A database will be kept to compare a pitcher's motion and performance throughout the season, which will allow the coaching staff to better evaluate the player's progress.
Up next: The Rays host the Indians on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Progress Energy Field. Right-hander Dan Miceli makes his first start of the spring. Left-hander Jeremy Sowers will start for the Tribe.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.