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03/17/11 8:45 PM ET

McGee might find some save opportunities

TAMPA, Fla. -- When it was clear the Rays would develop lefty Jake McGee as a reliever this spring, he said he wanted to close. Manager Joe Maddon doesn't think that would be such a bad idea, even if he's not quite ready to hand the job to the 24-year-old.

"It's a matter of if you feel as though he's ready," Maddon said. "He might be able to. I'm not sure yet. I think he'll be ready to do that at some point in his career, I just don't know exactly when I'm going to be comfortable with that.

"Jake's got a high-end arm. My biggest concern, is he ready emotionally to handle that, and if it does not go well, how's he going to react?"

McGee did come up late last season and pitched well in five relief outings. Primarily a starter throughout his climb up the Minor League ladder, he's still learning the ins and outs of short relief. McGee tossed two scoreless innings against the Yankees in the Rays' 3-2 loss on Thursday night.

With Rafael Soriano now with the Yankees, Maddon feels confident that many members of his bullpen could get the job done when called upon.

"It's just going to be the leverage of the moment, how we get to the ninth inning, who's been used already to make sure that we had a lead going into the ninth inning," Maddon said. "I'm liking the way this is looking right now. I think we're going to have several candidates to get the last out. I don't just want to say, 'You're going to get the last out every night,' but on any given night, I think we have the ability to potentially move that last out or last two outs around, based on left-handed or right-handed hitters."

This isn't a reluctance in using a young pitcher in pressure situations. If anything, Maddon has shown a willingness to go with whomever he feels can get the job done.

"Honestly, I'd have no hesitation pitching anybody," Maddon said. "Jake, eventually, I think can morph himself into that particular role, but I don't want to just thrust that upon him right now.

"Just like David Price got the baseball in the ALCS, I have no problem with Jake McGee."

Maddon, Rays finalize starting rotation

TAMPA, Fla. -- Manager Joe Maddon announced on Tuesday what everyone had assumed, that David Price would start on Opening Day and James Shields would take the ball for game No. 2. Now, it appears, the rest of the rotation's order is now finalized.

It's been known since the beginning of Spring Training that Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and rookie Jeremy Hellickson would be 3-4-5 on the staff, but it was unclear just what order it would be. Really, it was a matter of whether it would be Davis-Niemann or Niemann-Davis. Now that decision has been made.

"We're going to go Davis, then Niemann, then Helli," Maddon said. "It's all based on us digging below the surface, once again. With that, we like the schedule, how it sets up for Davis in that slot, how the schedule sets up for Niemann in his slot, etc. It wasn't necessarily about Jeremy. It was about who was better to go three, Davis or Niemann, and it's our guess that Davis is better to go three."

The order means Davis will pitch Sunday, April 3 against the Orioles, while Niemann will make his debut on April 5 against the Angels. Hellickson would then start the fifth game of the season, an afternoon game on Wednesday, April 6 against the Angels. The Rays hit the road after those five home games, and Maddon said it went beyond that opening homestand in examining the schedule and how the rotation fit into it. It was that, and not some differentiation he makes between a No. 3 and No. 4 starter, that formed the decision.

"I really don't like to put numbers, attach them," Maddon said. "We've got guys who can win on every night. I like one through five; it's unusual to be able to like that, I think. Any manager who has that luxury of liking all five starters is very unusual. It's a scheduling thing. We liked it the other way around, so that's how we did it."

There was some question as to whether Hellickson would be ready to make that April 6 start. The right-hander didn't appear in a Spring Training game until March 11, but the Rays expect him to be all systems go.

"I want him to be fine for that," Maddon said. "I hope we don't have to skip anybody. The game plan is for him to pitch in that fifth game."

Rays check out new turf at The Trop

TAMPA, Fla. -- It was a road game for the Rays on Thursday night, but one that allowed them to check out their home digs on the way.

Before coming over to George M. Steinbrenner Field for the evening game against the Yankees, the Rays stopped off at Tropicana Field to get a first impression of the new turf that was put in this winter. The AstroTurf is the fourth surface the Rays have played on since 1998, and the initial reviews are good. The big test run will come on March 30 when the Rays will play the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field in their final exhibition game before the opener against the Orioles on April 1. The modern technology would allow groundskeepers to adjust the turf based on feedback from the players, changes that wouldn't take very long to make.

"They said they could change it within several hours," Maddon said. "The change can come about pretty quickly because they have all the ingredients right there to make any change necessary.

"We're going to play that exhibition game there and have a better idea at that point. [We have an] off-day coming up aftrer that, then the actual season. For right now, I like the way it looked and felt. I think the guys did, too."

At least one player had a different appreciation for the switch. Evan Longoria laughed at the irony of the situation. The All-Star third baseman has an endorsement deal with FieldTurf, the stuff that carpeted Tropicana Field previously.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.