Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Rays 5, Blue Jays 3
Posted Mar 30, 2011 by Tribune Sports
Updated Mar 30, 2011 at 08:06 PM
By TONY FABRIZIO
ST. PETERSBURG B.J. Upton’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh drove in the winning runs, and the Rays beat the Blue Jays 5-3 on Wednesday night to finish the spring with a winning record for the fourth time in their history.
Playing a tune-up game on their new AstroTurf GameDay grass at Tropicana Field, the Rays got a solo home runs from Evan Longoria and Eliot Johnson and had a spring-high six stolen bases – including a double-steal by Reid Brignac and Johnson before Upton’s winning hit.
In the third inning, Upton walked, stole second base, went to third and a groundout and stole home on a double steal. He was picked off and thrown out trying to steal second in the fifth inning.
Upton finished the spring with a .293 batting average and two thefts of home plate among his five stolen bases.
“The spring went pretty well,” Upton said. “Exactly the way I wanted it to go. Some good AB’s. I think I’m right where I want to be. I’m ready to start it up on Friday.”
The Rays originally said the exhibition at Tropicana Field wouldn’t count toward their Grapefruit League record or official spring stats but stated that was incorrect before Wednesday game.
Since it did count, the win gave Tampa Bay a final spring record of 15-14-2, which includes a 14-7-1 mark since March 7. The last two times they posted a winning record in the spring (2008, 2010), the Rays went to the postseason.
Right-hander Jeff Niemann completed his spring work by pitching four innings. He allowed three runs on four hits, but probably would have fared better if first baseman Dan Johnson had come up with a long one-hop throw from Eliot Johnson in the third on a two-out grounder by Yunel Escobar.
Jose Bautista followed with an RBI single and Adam Lind with a two-run double.
“Everything felt good today,” Niemann said. “Everything felt like it’s where it needs to be for the start of the seaso, and I go in feeling good and confident.”
The Rays sold general admission tickets for $10, and fans were allowed to sit in the lower bowl. Attendance was announced at 8,568.
Before the game, manager Joe Maddon said the 25-man opening day roster is set. The final bullpen spots, as expected, went to Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, Jake McGee and Juan Cruz.