Notes: Reyes on comeback trail
Reliever battling for roster spot, could take over closer role
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Al Reyes is close to being back.
The veteran right-hander experienced a pitcher's worst fear when he had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on Oct. 19, 2005. Now all the hard work is about to pay off this spring.
Reyes, 36, signed with the Rays in March 2006, beginning the comeback that could help solidify a young bullpen.
Entering Sunday's game against the Pirates, Reyes had a 2.25 ERA in six appearances and was preparing to make the critical step all relief pitchers coming back from surgery do by making back-to-back outings.
"It's not so much pain you worry about, it's recovery time," Reyes said. "So far, I feel good. I can't wait to get a chance to pitch back-to-back games. I've been throwing in a game and the next day I come here and play catch. Everything feels normal. The way I've been feeling, I don't think there will be a problem to throw back-to-back days."
Reyes is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Monday and against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. If he proves he can pitch on back-to-back days, he has a shot at becoming the team's closer.
"I'm trying make the team," Reyes said. "Whatever happens, it's not up to me. I just want to help this team. In the past, I've done everything in the bullpen. If they hand the ball to me in the first inning, I just go in there and try to do my job."
Reyes has 104 Major League saves with the Brewers, Orioles, Dodgers, Pirates, Yankees and Cardinals.
"I feel very good about the way I've been throwing this spring," Reyes said. "I've got my confidence back. My arm feels good."
Norty getting it right: Greg Norton is a switch-hitter, which means he has the task of honing two swings during Spring Training.
"I have to work a lot more on my right side most of the time, even though that's my natural side, because you don't get as many at bats," Norton said. "So to keep my swing fluid from that side, I might take a couple more hacks from the right side than the left."
Norton arrived at camp this spring under different circumstances. In 2006, he was a Minor League free agent, while this year, he has the luxury of having a body of work compiled with the Rays in 2006. The veteran said his circumstances have not changed his approach.
"I'm not the type of person because I did something last year, it doesn't mean anything this year," Norton said. "I want to do that or improve. So I'm going to be hard on myself if I'm not taking the swings that I like and helping the team in the spring. I know it's a Spring Training game, and they technically don't mean anything.
"I think everyone in here still wants to win. So when you get those guys in scoring position on third, your swing's not going that well and you don't get them in, you're still upset. I don't try to change my mind-set from being a Minor League invitee to the team, to being in the situation I'm in now."
A trade in the works? Given the competitive nature of this year's camp -- and the crowded situations at certain positions -- the likelihood of a trade would seem logical. But Rays manager Joe Maddon said he hasn't heard any trade talk to this point.
"I really haven't," Maddon said. "[General manager] Andrew [Friedman] has said very little about trade situations right now. I don't think it's going to happen. I don't know that, but Andrew hasn't really been talking about trading anybody."
This and that: Maddon said he is not ready to anoint a closer yet, which means the team will likely start the season with a mix-and-match situation at the end of the game. "And if somebody wants that job, it's theirs' to be had," Maddon said. "Go out and take it, it's there, but nobody is going to be named that going into the season. I have not seen that animal yet." ... Outfielders Carl Crawford (left hamstring) and Rocco Baldelli (right hamstring) are both showing improvements. Crawford probably could have played Sunday against the Pirates, but did not, and will likely play against the Indians on Monday. Catcher Josh Paul (bruised right hand) is also showing improvement, while starting catcher Dioner Navarro will start for the third time on Monday since missing time with a strained left hamstring.
Up next: The Rays travel to Winter Haven, Fla., on Monday to play the Indians at 1:05 p.m. ET at Chain of Lakes Park. Right-hander James Shields will start for the Rays in his second-to-last start before getting the nod in the third game of the season against the Yankees. Right-handers Shawn Camp and Jae Kuk Ryu will also pitch for Tampa Bay. Left-hander Jeremy Sowers will start for Cleveland, and he will be followed by right-hander Joe Borowski.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.