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Game Preview: Friday (3/31) at Detroit in Lakeland

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RAYS (12-15) at Detroit (17-14)
1:05; Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland
NO TV/RADIO

RAYS 6, New York Yankees 4

Pitching Matchup

LH Mark Hendrickson, RH Doug Waechter

LH Nate Robertson

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-vs Detroit at Tropicana Field (Fossum)

Sunday-OFF

Regular Season

Monday-at Baltimore (Kazmir)

3 Days to Opening Day

10 Days to the Home Opener

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RAYS (12-15) at Detroit (17-14)
1:05; Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland
NO TV/RADIO

RAYS 6, New York Yankees 4

Tampa-The Devil Rays used a three run ninth and a decent start by Edwin Jackson against the AL's top offense in beating the New York Yankees 6-4 at Legends Field yesterday. The Rays won for the first time since Sunday, thanks in part to Jackson, who held the Yankees' hitters at bay for 5.2 innings in trying to make his case to be the fifth starter. Jackson gave up three earned on four hits, one of which was a home run, while walking and k'ing three. Jackson started to lose it when he was removed in the bottom of their sixth inning, and was relieved by Shawn Camp, who struck out one in 1.1 innings. Jesus Colome pitched an inning of work in picking up the win, and Jason Childers pitched a scoreless ninth to keep his ERA at 0 for the spring, and solidifying a spot in the bullpen.

Meanwhile, Rays hitters pounded out 13 hits off of Yankees pitching, three by Aubrey Huff, who also drove in a run and doubled. Russell Branyan, in his first at bat back since March 20th because of back spasms, connected off of Yankees starter Mike Mussina in the second inning, a solo shot that was the first run of the ballgame, and he later drove in a run on a two base hit. Carl Crawford's two hits were both of the extra base fashion, a double and a triple, while Jorge Cantu also doubled in driving in half of the Devil Ray runs, three. The announced attendance at Legends Field was 10,186, a sellout, and the highest number of fans to watch the Rays this spring on a slightly cloudy, but otherwise beautiful spring day in Tampa.

Rays Reads

-The Rays yesterday announced that they had signed former Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Brian Meadows to a one year, $650,000 deal that includes incentives. Meadows had been released by Pittsburgh after putting up a 9.58 ERA in six contests. So, of course, where would he end up but here? Meadows was the 70th overall pick of the Florida Marlins in the 1994 draft, but was let go by Florida after 62 starts in two years and ERAs of 5.21 and 5.6. He then headed over to San Diego, where he made 22 more awful starts, before being banished to Kansas City, where things started to turn around for him. Apart from a disastrous 2001, Meadows has not posted an ERA higher than 4.72 since leaving the West Coast. He had a 1.41 WHIP and 4.58 ERA in 65 games with the Bucs last year, as well as a decent K:BB and a low walk rate. Over his career, Meadows has a mediocre K:BB, 5.04 ERA, high home run and hit rates, though tends to have good control, something void of our current bullpen. Eh, we can't do much worse, why not give this guy a shot?

-Red Sox nut job and Rays Nation Public Enemy No. 1 Julian Tavarez was suspended for 10 days by MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson for his sucker punch of Rays outfielder Joey Gathright in Monday's game in Ft. Myers. Tavarez was also slapped with an undisclosed fine. The exact words MLB used were "violent and unsportsmanlike actions." Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. It just so happens that the Red Sox have two days off in their first ten games of the regular season, reducing his games missed total by 20%. Funny how that works, eh? Tavarez is expected to appeal the ruling (who doesn't?). If the suspension is upheld, Tavarez will have been suspended by major league baseball. What a winner. No punishments were handed down upon the Rays.

-The Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers have announced an agreement that will allow for the Rays to use an existing Dodgers facility in the Dominican Republic to base their Dominican operations from. The Rays, who are slowly rebuilding their presence in the Caribbean after ceasing operation five years ago due to budget (cough...kickbacks...cough) constraints. The Dodgers had room for the Rays after ceasing the operations of one of their Dominican teams, and so the 50 acre Campo Las Palmas complex will have two tenants. The Rays, meanwhile, continue to negotiate for a training complex in Venezuela, and an announcement pertaining to that complex could come in the next month. Rays senior whatever they're calling him Gerry Hunsicker said that if all breaks right, the Rays could be established enough in the two countries to have teams in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues by the 2007 season.

-Nothing real meaty to be found, but the Times has a nice account of just how close Shawn Camp came to losing his wife this spring. Also escaping my attention, but mentioned in the article, Camp has a 3.38 ERA this spring. How did that happen? Where was I when he started to pitch decently? I though he was up in the nines somewhere. In any case, Camp looks sure to make the team out of camp, ha ha ha, but the article does remind us that sometimes baseball players' struggles aren't always between the chalk lines.

Short Hops-In today's 'there is a god' news flash, Rays manager Joe Maddon said that 3B Sean Burroughs, who has back issues, is likely to begin the season on the 15 Day DL...Rocco Baldelli had his troublesome hamstring looked at by a doctor yesterday, and the report was good, though it still doesn't affirm whether or not Rocco will take the field on opening day; in the meantime, he will squeeze in some ABs at minor league camp today...OF Joey Gathright, who has been sidelined due to neck pain as a result of Red Sox reliever Julian Tavarez's sucker punch in Monday's brawl, is expected to play against Detroit in Lakeland today...Maddon still has not decided the third and fourth spots in the rotation between lefties Mark Hendrickson and Casey Fossum; Hendrickson is scheduled to pitch in today's game, and Fossum in Saturday's game...Rays manager Joe Maddon expects to cut down the active roster by anywhere from eight to twelve players after today's game...Get ready for an hour long bonanza of Rays TV material on opening day, starting with Inside the Rays, an occasional feature on the team with interviews and profiles similar to Sunshine's Inside the Lightning, at 2pm and Rays on Deck following that, the pregame show...30 of FSN Florida's 75 Rays telecasts, including the opener, are slated to be broadcast in HD, except there is one tiny problem; no local cable provider except for an extremely small Verizon fiber optic carrier available only in Temple Terrace is picking them up, and even Verizon may not have the necessary infrastructure to pick the games up...The Verizon cable system is also the only local network picking up all 150 Marlins TV telecasts on FSN this season...Not that it is anything more than mildly amusing, but two Rays employees, PR chief Rick Vaughn and underling Jason Latimer, graduates of George Mason and the University of Florida, respectively, have made a bet that the alum whose school loses tomorrow's Final Four matchup must sing the other school's fight song during the seventh inning stretch at the home opener; I'll be sure to bring ear plugs.

Pitching Matchup

LH Mark Hendrickson, RH Doug Waechter

LH Nate Robertson

Breakdown

More likely than not, I will probably be heading out to Marchant Stadium in Lakeland for this one, which features two Rays pitchers in key battles. Mark Hendrickson, who will start the ballgame, is probably pumped for the prestige that would come with being a No.3 starter, in lieu of a No. 4, so you know he's going to bring his A game, and even though Doug Waehcter appears to have the fifth spot in the rotation sewn up, a bad start could tip the balance in Edwin Jackson's favor. It is also major cutdown day for a lot of the Rays, and this will be 8-12 guys' last game in a Ray uniform, so some will want to avoid the cut, and this will be their last chance to convince Maddon to let their opening day hopes to continue for one more day. Meanwhile, taking the rubber for Detroit if lefty Nate Robertson.

Upcoming Games

Tomorrow-vs Detroit at Tropicana Field (Fossum)

Sunday-OFF

Regular Season

Monday-at Baltimore (Kazmir)

3 Days to Opening Day

10 Days to the Home Opener

GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Information from multiple Tampa Tribune reports was used in this article, including this one, and this one, and information from MLB.com was also used in this report.