The Rays Tank: A day off and a look at S-Rod’s 2013 role

J. Meric

Though Wednesday was an off day, David Price got some action against O’s minor leaguers and Sean Rodriguez’s super-utility role was discussed.

It was a slow day in the Rays world, as the team had the day off Wednesday, leaving only one off-day remaining this Spring Training. Opening Day is only a mere 19 days away, but who's counting?

David Price pitched in a minor league game against the Orioles, going five innings with 60 pitches, four singles, six strikeouts and zero walks. Price had an interesting take on the day, not concerning his mechanics, but the energy of the game itself:

"It's definitely a little bit tougher," Price said. "There's no national anthems, there's no walk-up songs, there's no people in the stands. There's not a whole lot. You have to be kind of self-motivated."

Though he expected zero fan support, Marc Topkin tweeted that Alex Cobb showed some loyalty and was in the back field watching the Cy Young winner.

Today the Rays head up to Sarasota to take on the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET, with Jeff Niemann starting for the Rays and Jeremy Hellickson pitching in a minor-league game against the O's, since he's likely to face them in the opening homestand. Niemann is still vying for the fifth spot in the rotation against Roberto Hernandez, though he has done well thus far, allowing only seven hits and two earned runs in eight and a third innings pitched.

***

Marc Topkin discussed Sean Rodriguez's bittersweet super-utility role, after struggling last year and letting his day-to-day shortstop position slip away. Think he saw Steve's piece a few weeks ago? Rodriguez had an honest take on the matter, saying:

"I understand I had a little opportunity there and I didn't make everything I could out of it. It wasn't a total go-ahead shot, but it was definitely a shot," Rodriguez said.

"So that's on me. It's on me. And I know Andrew (Friedman, executive vice president) and Joe (Maddon, manager) and all of them know that. They offered me a contract, taking a chance, saying, 'You know what, okay, we still believe that there's more there.'

"So that's what I'm out to prove. I'm not out to prove anything else but that, that there's definitely more there."

His main focus for this year will be consistency, as he hit just .213 with a .281 on-base percentage last season. He seemed to unravel a bit, with a demotion to Durham that led to a locker-punching incident, breaking his hand and landing him on the DL.

That being said, it's not surprising that the Rays sought out other options this past offseason, adding Yunel Escobar to play shortstop, Kelly Johnson to help out at second and James Loney to fill the void at first base. Rodriguez is left helping out "wherever, and however, needed" and he seems to be as okay with it as he can be:

"It's just the mental mind-set, just understanding your role, just trying to make the best of that and find a way to succeed with that, whether it's minimal opportunity or not," he said. "If that's what's going to get me at-bats, I'm fine with it."

Unfortunately for S-Rod as well, Ben Zobrist is the super-utility golden child and extremely consistent, so he won't be getting all the merits of that title either.

Links:

- Maddon gave his first take on the potential lineup for the year, which will surely change endless times, but he indicated that the beginning of the order will be Jennings in leadoff, Zobrist second and Longoria in the three-hole. Though he made sure to reiterate that there are three weeks of Spring Training left, and that he's not overthinking anything yet.

- Four outs away from being eliminated from the WBC, Puerto Rico rallied with three runs in the eighth inning to beat Italy, 4-3. The U.S. plays the Dominican Republic tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET, with the winner facing either Japan on Sunday or the Netherlands on Monday. The loser will play against Puerto Rico on Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET for the second survivor spot.

- American fans lacking in appreciation for the WBC, in comparison to the Japanese, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican fans? Who cares, says Joe Posnanski.

- Need a new cowbell for the 2013 season? A steal at only $550, you can be the proud owner of "The Ultimate Tampa Bay Rays Cowbell Collection." That's right, this exists, and it's currently up for sale on ebay.

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