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Rays notes: Race heats up for final bullpen spots

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Published:   |   Updated: March 24, 2014 at 07:23 AM

FORT MYERS — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s 9-2 win against the Red Sox at JetBlue Park that the decision about which of the three candidates will fill the final two spots in the bullpen will be made late this week.

RHPs Brandon Gomes and Mark Lowe continue to make that decision hard, and that’s assuming RHP Josh Lueke, who is out of options, will get one of those spots.

Gomes and Lowe both pitched two scoreless innings Sunday.

Gomes has not allowed a run in nine innings this spring. He has 12 strikeouts and has walked just two batters.

When asked if he can do anything more to prove he deserves a spot on the Opening Day roster, Gomes, who has an option remaining, said, “I don’t think so. I think I did a good job of executing my pitches. I’m throwing the ball really well, and I’m going to carry that into the season no matter what team I’m on.”

Lowe, who signed a minor-league contract, has a 0.87 ERA in 10ß innings this spring.

Oviedo debuts: RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo pitched against big-league hitters Sunday for the first time since September 2011. Since then his career has been derailed by visa issues and reconstructive elbow surgery.

Oviedo allowed a run on a walk and three singles. His velocity was in the low 90s, which surprised him. He thought it would be lower because of the layoff.

“The results were there for Oviedo, but that’s not my concern right there,” Maddon said. “That he felt good and he was throwing the ball with significant velocity was very interesting.”

And the rotation is: Maddon said the Rays are still deciding on the order of the rotation after LHP David Price.

The remaining four have pitched on this schedule: RHP Alex Cobb, LHP Matt Moore, RHP Chris Archer and RHP Jake Odorizzi.

Odorizzi said he is scheduled to pitch a minor-league game Sunday, which puts him in line to start the fifth game of the season.

But Maddon said they are looking at matchups between members of the rotation and certain teams they will face during the first month of the season. Maddon could also separate Price and Cobb to reduce the chances of heavy back-to-back bullpen days behind Moore and Archer.

“That’s part of it,” Maddon said. “Trying to look at what benefits your bullpen also, because some pitchers have a greater tendency of not going deep into a game and tax the bullpen more. So when you put two of those guys back-to-back, all of a sudden you run into trouble, so that’s part of the issue also.”

Ramos reaction: LHP Cesar Ramos said he was disappointed to not win the fifth starter’s job but glad for the opportunity to compete.

“The opportunity to get stretched out, people, when you’re evaluated, they’re really able to see you pitch,” he said. “Coming out of the bullpen to face a hitter or an inning, you’re just going out there to get those guys out. But when you’re going through a lineup, they’re going to take pitches, you’re going to make pitches. The whole chess game of pitching with 100 pitches is totally different than one inning.”

Ramos also said the competition proved how tough it is to earn a job on the Rays’ pitching staff.

“They’re just so (darn) good everywhere you look, the rotation or the bullpen,” Ramos said. “I can’t crack the rotation and it’s hard to crack the late innings here. The guys are just that good. You chip away and put your work in and at some point, hopefully it all works out. But we all have a job to do, and keep grinding away.”

Noteworthy: SS Hak-Ju Lee will undergo an MRI on his surgically repaired left knee after he twisted it Saturday while sliding into third base. ... Maddon said today’s lineup will closely resemble the one he wants to use during the regular season. The one exception is 3B Evan Longoria is scheduled to have the day off. ... RF Wil Myers hit his fifth double of the season Sunday, all of which have come since Tuesday. ... LF Matt Joyce returned after missing three games with a stiff neck and hit his second homer of the spring. It came off Boston LHP Felix Doubront.

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