Rays and Red Sox Tie at 9; Bullpen Down to Ekstrom, Benoit

So the Rays didn't manage to secure a franchise-best 19th spring training victory today, but they did stage a five run comeback in the last three innings, led offensively by the titanic bats of Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson, and Gregory Sexton. Yeah, that's right. Gregory Sexton.

While the regulars were in during the first half of the game, the results were mixed for the Rays. Bartlett and Crawford each had two hits and Pena drove in two runs, but B.J. Upton was 0-3 with two strikeouts. Pat Burrell was 1-3 with a single, but he also made some defensive miscues, including giving Adrian Beltre a stand-up triple by taking about 45 minutes to get a ball out of the right field corner. Dioner Navarro looked decent in his first start back from his nerve injury, going 1-2 with a walk. Yeah, that's right. Navarro walked.

The Rays' pitchers, though, imploded. Joaquin Benoit struck out five over two innings of work, but his control was an absolute mess. In the first inning, he hit the first batter he faced, walked the next, and seemed to never be able to get ahead in a count. I think he went 3-2 with something like three or four batters in a row. Benoit managed to limit the damage and so he only let up two runs in those two innings, but it was not a good showing from someone trying to clamp down his claim on the final bullpen slot.

Sadly, the rest of the Rays' bullpen didn't fare much better. Andy Sonnanstine pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his first game out of the bullpen, but the good news ended there. Rafael Soriano managed to allow four runs in his one inning of work and Heath Rollins let up two runs on five hits in his two and two-thirds innings. After the game Rollins was demoted to minor-league camp, leaving Mike Ekstrom and Joaquin Benoit the final two contestants for the last bullpen slot. Neither has been particularly impressive, but my guess is that Benoit will get the slot due to his high upside. Either that or the Rays' front office will work their magic and acquire someone else to fill that slot, but I don't know if I see this happening. It's the last bullpen slot; it's not a matter of life or death. Whoever fills it is not going to be used in high-leverage situations.

Since I didn't announce the winner of yesterday's Batting Goggles contest already, I figure it's about time I got around to it. The questions were "...of the nine zones located within the strike zone, what was Upton's weakest area last season? What was his batting average in that area?" Many people said high and inside due to Upton's bad shoulder and if I'd had to make a guess, I would have selected the same thing. However, our winner had his own theory:

middle-away

BJ’s been a pull hitter the last two years, which typically means he’s been able to get around on inside pitches. And I’m gonna guess .155.

by kericr 

The correct answer was high and away, but kericr selected BJ's second weakest zone.  Looking at Batting Goggles, BJ was horrible last year on all outside pitches, batting .184 on middle-away pitches and .135 on high and away pitches. Congratulations kericr!

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