2/25/2014 4:51 P.M. ET
Pitchers set for first three Grapefruit League games
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays unveiled on Tuesday their full pitching schedule for the first weekend of Grapefruit League games, including Friday's spring opener against the Orioles at Charlotte Sports Park.
Left-handed reliever Cesar Ramos will get the start on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET. He'll be followed by right-handers Heath Bell, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, Jake Odorizzi, Nathan Karns, left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser and righty Kirby Yates.
Left-handed ace David Price will start Saturday's game against the Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla. Right-hander Mark Lowe, lefty Jake McGee, right-handers Brad Boxberger and Matt Andriese, lefties Mike Montgomery, Enny Romero and Jeff Beliveau and right-hander Alex Colome will finish up the game.
Right-hander Alex Cobb will take the mound to start Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Twins at Charlotte Sports Park. Rounding out the rest of the pitching staff are right-handers Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta, lefty Adam Liberatore, righty Steve Geltz, lefty Braulio Lara and right-handers Sam Runion and Santiago Garrido.
Molina, Hanigan share thoughts on new collision rule
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays manager Joe Maddon bounced a few ideas off veteran catchers Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan on Tuesday regarding the newly implemented, experimental Rule 7.13, intended to increase player safety by eliminating "egregious" collisions at home plate.
While Maddon is withholding his thoughts and official approach regarding the rule until Wednesday's workout, Hanigan and Molina spoke Tuesday about how it will affect them behind the plate.
Molina said he's generally not a fan of the rule change -- particularly given how little time players will have to practice it before the season begins -- but he doesn't think it will affect him all that much. Hanigan said it might actually help him block the plate more effectively, as he'll be able to focus more on catching the ball and getting in the right position without worrying about whether he's going to get bowled over by a baserunner.
"It's going to be a little different, to say the least. I'm probably not going to do anything much different," Hanigan said. "I always give a little plate if I don't have the ball, so I don't think I'll change my mechanics too much, so I don't think it'll be too big a deal. ... But I don't know, man. I'm surprised, to tell you the truth.
"I don't know. I've been doing it one way for so long, it's going to be tough to try to do anything different. That's what Jose said, too. We talked. He's been doing it so long for one way, it's what you know. I think it'll help the guys who are younger that are coming up, be taught it a little differently and understand that you're really not as vulnerable now. ... We'll see how it goes."
Both catchers had some questions. For instance, Hanigan asked reporters, what happens when a catcher has to come up the third-base line to receive the ball? That's where a lot of collisions take place, and a runner can't be expected to slide around a catcher that far up the line. Will that be up to the umpire's discretion if the runner collides with the catcher?
Maddon expects the specifics of the experimental rule will be fluid as the year progresses. And he still has some questions as well, though he plans to address Tampa Bay's catchers and potential baserunners Wednesday after consulting with Molina, Hanigan and executive vice president Andrew Friedman.
Molina's biggest question -- and he hopes to get a chance to ask umpires about it -- is how much of the plate catchers can cover without violating the rule. Molina said he blocks the plate differently than most catchers, as he gives up a lot of the plate until the last second then takes it away. Since he can't cover up the plate while waiting for the throw home, Molina said he'll have to focus mostly on his technique the second or two before he receives the ball.
In short, Molina didn't have any problem with the way it worked before, even if he doesn't have to change too much himself.
"I'm old school, so I don't really like the rule," Molina said. "I wish it would stay the same way. ... As a catcher, we have to adjust to some little things -- hopefully not much. The guys that like to be in the middle [of the plate], those are the ones that are really going to have to fight off what they have done for many years."
Added Hanigan: "It's just a play that's been in the game so long, I'm surprised they completely eliminated it, honestly. ... I don't know, man. It's surprising. I expected it to be a little different, but I think some guys are happy with it and some aren't. I think we're split. At the end of the day, we're trying to protect guys, which I can understand."
Mending Zobrist returns to field for limited workout
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Ben Zobrist didn't go through a full workout Tuesday, but he did manage to get back on the field with his Rays teammates.
Zobrist, limited since he reported to Spring Training by a sore lower back he incurred while lifting weights, fielded ground balls with third-base coach Tom Foley, hit soft tosses in the batting cage and performed calisthenics and threw with the rest of the team at the start of Tuesday morning's workout at Charlotte Sports Park.
"From what I understand, he's progressing well," manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays are going to see how Zobrist feels Wednesday before determining the next step, but he said he felt good before working out Tuesday.
If all goes well Wednesday and Thursday, Zobrist hopes to be ready to play in the Rays' Grapefruit League opener on Friday, although that would seem unlikely given the time he's missed so far.
• Right-hander Chris Archer didn't throw live batting practice Tuesday, as scheduled, and wants to get set up on a more normal every-fifth-day pitching schedule as Grapefruit League games draw near. Maddon said Archer is completely healthy, and he didn't have any problem with Archer taking charge of his own schedule.
• The most competitive battle of the spring might be for the final spot in the Rays' bullpen, with a list of candidates that includes right-handers Brandon Gomes, Brad Boxberger, Josh Lueke and Mark Lowe as well as whoever doesn't get the fifth spot in the rotation, likely either Erik Bedard or Jake Odorizzi.
Maddon said that decision will mostly be based on each pitcher's history and ability, with Spring Training performance nothing more than a potential tiebreaker if the race is too close to call. Maddon noted that it's a good situation for the Rays in terms of organizational depth, even if it's tough on the pitchers who might get sent to Triple-A.
"Because of the guys that don't make it, once again, Durham's going to have a good bullpen. There's going to be a lot to draw on from that side," Maddon said. "There could be some tough conversations toward the end. Hopefully everybody stays healthy and well and we have to make our decisions based on healthy people. I say it every year, though, man, you don't win this with the 25 guys who leave. ... You really want to stay away from that emotional Spring Training decision, because you'll get burned most of the time."
• Matt Moore, Peralta, Lowe, Colome, Romero and Boxberger were among the pitchers who tossed live batting practice during Tuesday's workout. Maddon also said he was impressed by Lara's throwing session, particularly his strong arm and good breaking ball.
The Rays' pitchers, meanwhile, are antsy to start facing hitters in another uniform.
"[Monday] I faced [Evan] Longoria, [James] Loney and [Desmond] Jennings. I didn't want to go in on any of them," Peralta said. "I didn't want to hit one of those guys and lose them for a couple days. So it's more comfortable to face opposing hitters for other teams."
• Infielder Wilson Betemit and right-handers Juan Carlos Oviedo and Juan Sandoval still have not reported to camp, as all three are dealing with visa issues.