03/20/2013 8:47 PM ET
Triumphant Rodney returns to Rays Thursday
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After playing a pivotal role in the Dominican Republic's undefeated run toward claiming its first World Baseball Classic title, Fernando Rodney will return to Rays camp on Thursday.
The Rays closer was named to the All-World Baseball Classic team. Rodney recorded the final out in all eight of the Dominican Republic's games, which were played over the course of 13 days.
His eight appearances and seven saves set Classic records. In all, he allowed no runs on one hit, three walks and eight strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said the team plans to work him back into the swing of things gradually, noting that he won't pitch in an actual exhibition game for five or six days.
"We'll evaluate him once he gets back, see how he feels," Maddon said. "Because I think there's going to be an emotional letdown as much as anything. He really got into it, man. It was fun to watch how totally absorbed how all those teams were. They really wanted to win."
Maddon allowed that Rodney did "a lot" of pitching at a high intensity level.
"We've got to watch him," Maddon said. "Yes, there's a physical impact, I don't know how that's going to play out by the end of the year. Let him chill for a little bit and then get back to work."
Meanwhile, catcher Jose Molina was on the Puerto Rico roster, but wasn't the starter, which brought another set of problems.
Molina "didn't play," Maddon said. "That's the other side of this event that can be difficult when guys go and don't play. You have a guy who maybe worked too much and a guy who didn't work enough. I think that's going to happen every time this event is run."
Despite injury, Fuld targeting Opening Day
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Sam Fuld has been out since March 3 for precautionary reasons because of a tight right hamstring. The Rays don't want him rushing back because running is such a big part of his game.
Despite all of the time that he's missed, the Rays outfielder remains confident he will be ready to play on Opening Day.
"Yeah, yeah, I am," Fuld said. "I know that as long as I continue to be safe and cautious with it, the leg will be fine by Opening Day."
Fuld and Rays manager Joe Maddon both believe he can play in games by the end of the week. Fuld said that return to action might include a Minor League game.
"I feel like I've learned over the last three or four years that you don't necessarily need a ton of repetition at the plate to feel comfortable," Fuld said. "I know what to do, whether it's in the batting cage or what not to get ready for at-bats without having seen live pitching in a while. I think that's changed.
"In the past it felt like maybe 50 or 60 at-bats in Spring Training would get me ready, I feel like I don't need as many now."
Fuld has not been sitting idle during the period away from the playing field. He has performed a lot of different drills, though he said he has not swung a bat and burst out of the box yet.
"That's probably the one thing I haven't done," Fuld said. "I've done a lot of agility work with back and forth lateral movements and stuff. And then [Tuesday] when I ran the bases, I ran pretty hard and felt good. I haven't done any outfield work, but I feel like the agility stuff I've done has mimicked that pretty well."
Originally, the forecast for Fuld's return was sooner. Even though the status of his leg has lingered, he hasn't grown more concerned.
"I knew I was going to be conservative with it and I knew it was going to take a while," Fuld said. "So I was prepared for this amount of time. I keep reminding myself that it's a long Spring Training. It's always difficult when you're injured and you're itching to get out there as soon as possible. But given the time frame and the setting, I think it's important to be extra safe."
Peralta shows Dominican pride after Classic win
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joel Peralta chirped away at anybody within an earshot on Wednesday, the day after his native Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico 3-0 in the title game of the World Baseball Classic.
"There are a lot of people I know who probably don't know where the Dominican is, but now they probably will because we won the WBC," Peralta said.
Peralta watched the game on TV in Port Charlotte with fellow Rays countrymen Juan Sandoval, Juan Oviedo, and Minor League pitcher Jose Molina.
"Dominican went crazy last night," Peralta said. "I still think they're partying today."
Peralta was happy about the win, but hardly surprised.
"When I saw the team they put together, I saw a lot of young guys," Peralta said. "Those guys were hungry, they went in there and it means something to them to win [the WBC]."
Peralta had originally been scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic in this year's Classic, but a stiff neck slowed him early in camp, which prompted him to withdraw from the team.
"It feels bad that I missed the whole thing since Day 1," Peralta said. "But I couldn't go. I wasn't ready for that. My neck was bothering me with my shoulder. If I would have been there earlier in the tournament, I might have hurt the team. So it was better for me and the team, maybe, that I didn't go."
• The Rays' scheduled game against the Twns on Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium was postponed due to rain. Matt Moore, who had been scheduled to start against the Twins, will pitch on a back field in a Minor League game at Port Charlotte on Thursday. Roberto Hernandez will still start the regularly scheduled game against the Blue Jays at Charlotte Sports Park.
• Luke Scott had been penciled in at the DH spot Wednesday night against the Twins in Fort Myers, but he ended up staying in Port Charlotte. Scott has been on the mend from a tight left hamstring. So once the word reached the Rays' camp that rain was possible, the Rays opted to scratch him, rather than have him play on a wet field. … Stephen Vogt was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Wednesday. The 28-year-old catcher hit .296 with a home run and four RBIs in 27 at-bats this spring.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.