PORT CHARLOTTE — Remember those days when the Rays struggled to find an Opening Day starter among the arms in camp? Joe Maddon did Saturday morning as he watched the second group of pitchers throw a bullpen session during the first day of spring training.
All eight pitchers were left-handed.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that,” Maddon said.
The southpaws — David Price, Erik Bedard, Jeff Beliveau, Adam Liberatore, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Mike Montgomery and C.J. Riefenhauser — are another example of how deep the Rays’ pitching has grown since 2006, Maddon’s first year at the helm. And the group didn’t include Matt Moore, an All-Star during his 17-win campaign last season.
“They all had really good arms,” Maddon said. “All eight of them had good arms.”
That’s after losing three left-handers this past offseason when Alex Torres was traded to San Diego, Felipe Rivero was traded to Washington and Pedro Feliciano was designated for assignment to make room for Grant Balfour.
Maddon said he remembered the spring of 2006 when the questions were who would start Opening Day (Scott Kazmir or Seth McClung) and who would be the other pitchers on the staff.
“It was different,” Maddon said. “It was very different.”
Bedard said the Rays were one of several teams to show interest this offseason, and their interest picked up when RHP Jeremy Hellickson had minor elbow surgery that will keep him out until at least mid-May.
“Yeah, I think that was part of it,” he said. “They needed somebody to come in and substitute for him. I’m glad to be here and do the best I can.”
Bedard, a 10-year veteran who signed a minor-league contract Friday, will compete for the final spot in the rotation. He also has a chance to make the club as the long man in the bullpen.
“I’m open to anything,” he said. “If I can help this team win, that’s all I want to do.”
Peralta ready for company
RHP Joel Peralta, who has made a major league-high 227 appearances since joining the Rays before the 2011 season, said he is happy with the additions of RHP Heath Bell and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo to the back of the bullpen.
“Yeah, I don’t want to pitch 80 games again. I prefer to pitch 65, 70 and be ready for the playoffs, be better for the playoffs,” Peralta said. “Last year, I was surprised I finished really strong, my arm feels really good. For 65, 75, something like that, and with the help that we got, I think we can manage that this year.”
Peralta, who pitched in 80 games in 2013, pitched in three games this offseason during the Dominican Winter League. He had permission from the Rays to pitch in 10 games, but he felt three was enough.
Three for me?
RHP Nathan Karns, acquired Thursday from the Nationals in a trade for C Jose Lobaton, OF Drew Vettleson and Rivero, said he was surprised to be the only player heading to Tampa Bay in the trade.
“I thought it was going to be (straight) up, then (Nationals GM Mike) Rizzo told me it was three for one. That really caught me off guard,” Karns said. “Me? Three-for-one? Do they know who they’re talking about? I guess it’s an honor they think so highly of me. I’m ready to prove that the guy they traded for, I can be that guy.”
All seven catchers and 31 of 33 pitchers worked out Saturday during the first day of camp. Missing were RHP Juan Sandoval and Oviedo. Both remained in the Dominican because of visa issues. ... Tickets for Joe Maddon’s Thanksmas event at Saturday’s Fan Fest are $125 and can be purchased at raysbaseball.com. Proceeds go to the Rays Foundation and Maddon’s Thanksmas charity.