In his last start before Opening Day, James Shields claims he approached today's start as if it was a regular season game. If that's the case, we should certainly be pleased; Shields put up a standard start for him, going seven innings while only allowing three runs. Shields didn't walk anyone, struck out four, induced plenty of ground outs, and was as efficient as always, working through those seven innings in only 99 pitches. It wasn't a showy performance, but then again, Shields rarely is. I'm looking forward to many more of these under-appreciated performances over the course of the season.
Otherwise, there was nothing too eye-opening from today's game. Carlos Pena collected two hits (!) including a double, bringing his spring total to five. Cody Cipriano scored the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth, but then made a throwing error in the bottom of the inning that allowed the Astros to tie the game. And Elliot Johnson collected two hits and stole a base while batting lead-off for the Rays.
On the injury front, Marc Topkin reports that Willy Aybar's hamstring is doing better and he played first base in a minor-league game today. Matt Joyce's elbow is still the same and it appears iffy that he'll be ready to go for the start of the season. As for the catching situation:
Minor-league C Nevin Ashley gets another start today in place of recovering Dioner Navarro as he has impressed Maddon with his work behind the plate.
Remember, Ashley has only played half a season above the A+ level and he hit .212/.331/.314 during his time in Double-A . Even with his trip to Jaime Cevallos, he's a long-shot to open the season with the big-league club. Depending how he performs this season and how Navarro does, though, he could be worth a look in September.