LAKELAND — The big topic of the day at Joker Marchant Stadium on Friday was the record-busting contract signed by Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera, who agreed to a 10-year, $292 million contract.
The two-time AL MVP turns 31 next month and in 2012, Cabrera became the 15th player to win the Triple Crown — the first since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
“Good for him, he’s really good,’’ said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “You could go back to (Barry) Bonds and (Ken) Griffey Jr. — Cabrera’s in that category. There’s probably about 10 guys in this era who played in another stratosphere, and Cabrera’s probably in the top five. With really good hitters, when they see their pitch, they don’t take it, they don’t foul it off or miss it. They hit it hard and they keep it fair.’’
Given Tampa Bay’s relatively diminutive payroll, the Rays can only marvel at the extent of Detroit’s long-term commitment to Cabrera.
“It’s incredible where these numbers have ascended to,’’ Maddon said. “I want to believe it speaks to the solvency of the game in some ways, particularly the Detroit franchise. It happens every couple of years, when the bar is set even higher. (Mike) Trout’s probably the next on the horizon that’s going to challenge that.’’
Less is Moore
In his final tune-up before facing Toronto in Game 3 of the regular season, Rays lefty Matt Moore yielded seven hits and three runs in three innings, striking out four, as Tampa Bay dropped a 6-3 decision to Detroit and finished the Grapefruit League slate with a 16-7 record.
Moore was making his first start since Sunday, when a line drive deflected off his glove and struck him in the mouth against Boston.
“There were a couple of times I felt myself flinch,’’ said Moore, “but I’m sure it’ll get better as we go. I felt I was in a good place today. I ended up giving up a few more hits than I would have liked, but I feel like I’m ready to go.’’
One bright spot for the Rays was the play of CF Brandon Guyer, who hit a two-run homer in the ninth and turned in a spectacular diving catch to end the third inning.
Chris Archer is scheduled to start for the Rays today at Montgomery against Tampa Bay’s Double-A Southern League affiliate.
Opener sold out
For the ninth consecutive season, the Rays have sold out their home opener.
The team announced the sellout of their Opening Day game, Monday at 4:10 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Tickets are still available for the Rays’ games Tuesday through Thursday against Toronto, and for a weekend series against Texas.
Bedard, Fontenot sign minor-league deals
LHP Erik Bedard, who said he would not be opposed to pitching at Triple-A Durham if he couldn’t find a spot in a major-league rotation, kept his word when he signed a minor-league deal with the Rays.
“Great to have him back in the fold,” Maddon said. “I really think he can come up big for us at some point this year. I’ve said it many times — just getting to know him at camp, this guy definitely fits in to what we’re trying to do around here. And I’m happy about that.”
INF Mark Fontenot, who spent last season with Durham, also signed a minor-league contract to return to Durham.
Bedard, who signed a minor-league deal the day before camp began to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, had a 6.88 ERA in 17 innings. He allowed 25 hits, 13 runs, walked six, struck out 10 and allowed a pair of home runs.
Maddon began implementing the idea of themed road trips in 2008, and the Rays have sported letter jackets, college football jerseys and camouflage clothes in their funky road wardrobes.
On Friday, Maddon revealed a few of his themes for 2014.
“I’ve already got some stuff lined up,’’ he said. “Going to Seattle (May 12-14), we’re going Woodstock, with a sprinkling of James Brown. I’m working on a tuxedo trip, too. That’s kind of the antithesis of who we are, dressing in jeans and T-shirts. I’m definitely insisting on jeans and sneakers to accent the tuxedo. I’m working on a proper date for that, but I’ve already ordered mine.’’