FORT MYERS — The competition for the final spot in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation took place in two locals Monday as RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Erik Bedard pitched against the Red Sox at jetBlue Park while LHP Cesar Ramos pitched in an intrasquad game at Charlotte Sports Park.
Odorizzi, making his first start of the spring against what likely will be the Red Sox Opening Day lineup, continued to throw the splitter/changeup he calls “The Thing” to mixed success in his 2 1/3 innings. He allowed a run on two hits, walked a batter, hit a batter and struck out one in the Rays’ 6-2 loss.
Bedard, working on a changeup, allowed three runs on five hits in his three innings. He walked two, struck out one and allowed a long home run to 1B Mike Napoli.
“I’m not worried about the results,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “The fact that they both came out of it well and healthy, I’m fine with that.”
Odorizzi threw his new pitch almost exclusively in the first inning and fell behind in most counts.
“It was OK. Nothing crazy good, nothing terrible. It was all right,” Odorizzi said. “...I didn’t have good feel for it, so instead of abandon it and going to something I know, my slider or something I can throw for a strike, I’m going to keep throwing that right now. That’s my main emphasis.”
He did catch DH David Ortiz looking at a called third strike with the pitch, which he found encouraging.
Ramos allowed five hits and two runs in his 4 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven.
Maddon said the decision to pick the fifth starter will not be based on spring training results.
“We’re going to have to look under the hood a little bit and determine who is the most ready for the moment right now,” Maddon said. “It goes beyond just throwing up a couple of zeros in spring training.”
Odorizzi said that philosophy allows him to work on his new pitch while competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
“It’s encouraging to know you can work on something and still go for a spot,” Odorizzi said, “because they know what you’re capable of doing. So, you don’t have to blow everybody out of the water to get attention.”
DH Wilson Betemit played in his first game Monday, going 0-for-2 with a walk.
Maddon was pleased with how Betemit looked at the plate, despite not arriving in camp until March 6 because of visa issues in his native Dominican.
“Just coming out of the chute, line drive and a walk from the left side, I liked how he looked physically,” Maddon said.
Maddon said the switch-hitting Betemit will start today against the Twins at one of the corner infield spots.
Rodriguez in CF?
UTL Sean Rodriguez made his first start this spring in center field Monday, but that was more for a chance to get Rodriguez innings in the outfield than prepping him for a role as backup center fielder.
Maddon said OF David DeJesus is the backup to CF Desmond Jennings. OF Wil Myers and 2B Ben Zobrist can also play center field. OF Kevin Kiermaier will begin the year at Triple A but could come up if a need arose.
“If Desmond’s not fine, Kiermaier playing like he can, would be the perfect other guy,” Maddon said.
DeJesus (sore right side) is expected to rejoin the lineup this afternoon. He has not played since March 4. 2B Ben Zobrist (stiff neck) and RHP Joel Peralta (stiff neck) will likely miss two or three more games.
“Both are fine,” Maddon said. “We’re just pushing them back to give them a little more to feel better, get stronger then put them out there.”
RHP Alex Cobb will start a minor league game Wednesday rather than face the Blue Jays in Dunedin. RHP Nathan Karns will start against the Jays. ...C Ryan Hanigan caught his second consecutive game Monday. ...1B Jerry Sands hit his third double of the spring, making five of his seven hits for extra bases (three doubles, two home runs). ...RHP Heath Bell pitched 1 1/3 innings in a minor league intrasquad game.