© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/01/11 5:13 PM ET

Injury news is positive on Peralta, Hellickson

SARASOTA -- Joel Peralta took a line drive off the back of his left calf on Monday against the Pirates, but Maddon said there are no problems with his condition, other than a little soreness.

"It might push him back a day, maybe," Maddon said.

As for Jeremy Hellickson, the report was good.

The right-hander, who is coming back from a right hamstring strain, threw a bullpen session on Tuesday, tossing 35 pitches and reporting afterward that he felt "great."

Hellickson will pitch a bullpen on Thursday, and a day or two later, he'll throw to live hitters. Maddon expects him to pitch in an exhibition game "on or about the 11th."

Maddon leaning toward Jaso at leadoff

SARASOTA -- Joe Maddon said he hasn't made up his mind yet, but the Rays' manager sounded like he was heavily leaning toward using John Jaso as the team's leadoff hitter this season, not Johnny Damon.

When first asked about the leadoff spot prior to Tuesday's game, Maddon said, "I honestly don't know."

But as the discussion moved along, Maddon noted, "I still like Jaso up there."

Maddon went on to say that he liked what Jaso gave the team out of the top spot, with the way he can work an at-bat.

Damon will still likely see some leadoff duty during camp, as will B.J. Upton.

"B.J. Upton will hit some leadoff in this camp, also," Maddon said. "B.J.'s looking really good in camp."

Zobrist jack of nearly all trades

SARASOTA -- Ben Zobrist is scheduled to play first base against the Blue Jays on Wednesday in Dunedin, and Maddon said the Rays "Super U" guy is about 75 percent comfortable at the position.

Zobrist, who plays every position other than catcher, but has mostly played shortstop, second base and right field, will be called upon to play mostly second base, right field and first base this season. Maddon explained that fielding and throwing as a backstop wasn't a problem for Zobrist -- rather, it's the pickoff throws, bunt defense, cutoffs, and relays.

"When you don't play there, you have to think a little more instead of reacting," Maddon said.

While Zobrist could be more comfortable at the position, Maddon said of him, "He's cool with first base."

Maddon impressed by Orioles' pitching

SARASOTA -- The Rays played the Orioles on Tuesday at Sarasota's renovated Ed Smith Stadium, which prompted questions to Maddon about the Orioles team they will be facing this season.

"Their pitching got a lot better," Maddon said. "I thought their starting pitching and relieving did a lot better job [last season]."

When asked if the Orioles could be looked upon as an "X" factor this season, Maddon replied: "They've upgraded their team in a lot of ways."

Carter welcomes comparison to Clark

SARASOTA -- After watching him play first base for the Rays, a visitor told Chris Carter he had some mannerisms in the field that reminded him of former Major League great Will Clark. Carter smiled and told the visitor that he'd made an ironic observation, since Carter worked with Clark when he was in the Arizona organization.

Carter said he grew up around the San Francisco Bay area, so he knew who Clark was and appreciated working with him.

"He was definitely a player I watched,' Carter said.

Carter learned a lot from Clark, but would have liked to have picked his brain after learning more about the game, noting that Clark's understanding of the game was so much more advanced than his when they worked together.

"It was like he was doing calculus, and I was doing basic math," Carter said.

Carter signed with the Rays as a Minor League free agent on Jan. 4. He played in 100 games for the Mets in 2010, batting .263 with four home runs and 24 RBIs. He also plays the outfield.

Upton follows Manny's lead in homering

SARASOTA -- Manny Ramirez hit his first home run of the spring when he ran into a David Riske pitch with one out in the sixth. The blast cleared the wall just left of the Batter's Eye in center fiel at Ed Smith Stadium.

Not to be outdone, the next batter, B.J. Upton, followed suit by hitting his first home run of the spring. Upton's homer took the same flight path as Ramirez's shot; it just flew farther.

Upton wasn't waxing poetic about how much hitting the home run meant to him, but he allowed that jumping on one felt pretty good.

"Yeah, I think coming in and having a good base and a good idea of what you want to do up there is the biggest thing right now," Upton said. "Nobody's going to be in regular season form right now. This is all a work in progress, we've still got about a month left. I think it's just fine-tuning things and getting ready for the season."

When someone observed that Ramirez's blast seemed to serve as a blue print for Upton's, the Rays' center fielder chuckled.

"I guess," Upton said. "I know mine was wind-aided. I don't know about his." He paused. "You know what, we put two good swings on the ball, and they happened to leave."

The Rays are hoping there will be many days this season when the pair of sluggers click.

"That's the plan," Upton said. "That's the plan for the season. But we won't be going up there trying to do it. Just try to put a good swing on the ball and hope for the best."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.