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3/21/2013 3:46 P.M. ET

Hernandez throws six solid innings in loss to Jays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Blue Jays had only two everyday starters in their lineup Thursday against the Rays, but both Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista hit solo homers -- along with Eugenio Velez -- lifting Toronto to a 3-1 victory.

Only Rasmus' came against Rays starter Roberto Hernandez, who made his sixth spring appearance and is engaged in a battle with Jeff Niemann to claim the No. 5 spot in Tampa Bay's rotation. He did not do anything Thursday to adversely affect that pursuit, throwing six innings and allowing only three hits.

"Every game is very important for me, whenever I have an opportunity to go to the mound," Hernandez said. "Every pitch is important. Today I think [was a] great game, throwing strikes, keeping the ball down and getting some ground balls."

The veteran right-hander held the Blue Jays scoreless for the first four innings before Rasmus homered to start the fifth. That was all the Blue Jays could muster against Hernandez, although Bautista scored the winning run with a seventh-inning homer against Jamey Wright, and Velez homered against Joel Peralta, charging him with his first run of the spring.

Brett Cecil pitched the Blue Jays out of a jam in the third, taking over for starter Claudio Vargas with two on and two out to face Evan Longoria.

The left-hander, who is out of options on his contract and has a chance to make the Blue Jays as a long reliever, struck out Longoria swinging to end the threat.

Cecil also worked around trouble in the fourth, finishing 2 1/3 innings with one hit allowed, one walk and four strikeouts.

The Rays' only run came after Longoria led off the sixth with a double. Manager Joe Maddon lifted his third baseman in favor of pinch-runner Ryan Roberts, who advanced to third when Toronto right-hander Ramon Ortiz walked the bases loaded and scored on a James Loney single.

Up next for the Rays: The Rays will play split-squad games Friday against the Orioles in Port Charlotte and against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. Niemann, competing with Hernandez for the fifth spot in the Rays' rotation, will start against the Orioles, while Alex Cobb will pitch against the Pirates. Niemann's start against the Orioles will be available via an exclusive webcast.

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