02/25/2013 8:22 PM ET
Johnson, Escobar form keystone combo
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays are likely to become the third different team to feature a double-play combination of Kelly Johnson at second and Yunel Escobar at shortstop. The pair started 191 games together for the Braves from mid-2007 through '09 and started 131 games together for the Blue Jays from mid-2011 through '12.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last duo to start together at second base and shortstop for three different teams were second baseman Jeff Kent and shortstop Jose Vizcaino, who did it for four teams: the Mets, Indians, Giants and Astros.
Anderson's bat catches fire early in camp
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Leslie Anderson is on fire.
Anderson hit a two-run homer against the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Saturday, and he followed that performance with two hits in Sunday's 10-7 win over the Twins in Fort Myers. Entering Monday's action, Anderson led the Grapefruit League with five RBIs.
Anderson's play has not gone unnoticed by manager Joe Maddon.
"He's swinging the bat," Maddon said. "Good at-bats. He had a pretty good year last year, but beyond that, I like what he's doing on defense."
Tampa Bay signed Anderson in 2010 after he defected from Cuba. The first baseman/outfielder had a productive 2012 season while playing at Triple-A Durham, where he hit .309 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. Despite the well-documented struggles of first baseman Carlos Pena last season, Anderson did not earn a promotion to the Major Leagues.
"Watching him in pregame, it looks like he has a better feel for [first base]," Maddon said. "He looks really good. He's a different player than what I saw the last time I saw him."
Maddon noted that the potential the Rays saw in Anderson could finally be coming to fruition.
"I think it is [coming together] quite frankly," Maddon said. "Talking to him, he looks stronger to me. He's definitely more confident. He's more comfortable here. I think a lot of those things, when he showed up there was a lot of discomfort for him, culturally. Right now, he looks like he has a pretty good handle on things. Unequivocally, he looks good."
Price ready to make Grapefruit League debut
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner David Price will make his first outing of the spring on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Astros.
"I'm looking forward to it," Price said. "It's one inning, so go out there and throw strikes, that's the biggest thing first time out. Throw strikes and get reacclimated to the zone again. Like I said, throw strikes."
Price pointed out that short outings need to be made in order to get ready for the season, when he'll be trying to pitch nine innings every time out.
"That's part of it," Price said. "Spring Training is pretty lengthy, so you're able to go one inning, three innings, take your time doing it."
Price has noted that he "found" something at the end of last season, but whatever that is won't be apparent to most who watch him pitch.
"It's nothing that's going to be noticeable to you guys or probably anybody else, except maybe [pitching coach Jim] Hickey," said Price, who said for the most part he'll pitch the same way he has the past couple of years.
Since name change, Rays among game's best
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- In five years since becoming the Rays in 2008, Tampa Bay owns the third-best record in the Major Leagues behind the Yankees and Phillies.
Also during this span, the Rays have won five major Baseball Writers' Association of America awards, more than any other team. David Price (2012 AL Cy Young Award), Joe Maddon ('08, '11 AL Manager of the Year Awards), Evan Longoria ('08 AL Rookie of the Year Award) and Jeremy Hellickson ('11 AL Rookie of the Year Award).
Twelve different Rays players have made the All-Star team.
Only 15 different starting pitchers have been used, five fewer than any other Major League club and the fewest by an AL club over a five-year span since the 1980-84 Orioles.
La Russa talks rules changes with Maddon
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tony La Russa, who currently works as a special assistant to Commissioner Bud Selig, dropped by Charlotte Sports Park on Monday morning. The long-time big league manager chatted with Rays manager Joe Maddon about some of baseball's new rules and watched pregame workouts before heading up the coast to Sarasota for a game between the Yankees and Orioles.
The primary topic of conversation was baseball's decision to ban the fake-to-third, throw-to-first move. That play is now considered a balk. Maddon said he had no problem with the rule change, but he scoffed at the notion that the play had no value.
"Without getting too deeply ensconced in the conversation, there was so much more going on there than that play was given credit for, from a defensive perspective," Maddon said.
"I've always been humored by [people who say], 'That play never works.' Oh really?"
Maddon also spoke highly of La Russa from a personal perspective.
"It's so much fun to talk to him, because it's all the back-and-forth, give-and-take on the teachable components of the game," Maddon said. "That's always interesting. But honestly, this man treats me so well it's almost scary to me."
• Evan Longoria is slated to make his 2013 Grapefruit League debut Tuesday when the Astros visit Charlotte Sports Park.
• Brandon Guyer reported that his left hamstring is feeling fine, so he is ready to play. The outfielder said that he could have played over the weekend, but given the length of Spring Training, the Rays felt there was no reason to rush him.
• Joel Peralta is still bothered by a slightly stiff neck. Nevertheless, the reliever believes he will make his first outing of the spring on Thursday.
• Former Rays right-hander Doug Waechter joined Neil Solondz on Monday's broadcast on MLB.com, the first of nine games airing on MLB.com this spring -- six of which will feature Waechter.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Matthew Leach contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.