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Rays split pair of split-squad games

Posted Feb 23, 2013 by Roger Mooney

Updated Feb 23, 2013 at 08:41 PM

ROGER MOONEY
PORT CHARLOTTE
The Rays opened the Grapefruit League schedule Saturday by splitting a pair of split-squad games.

1B Leslie Anderson’s two-run homer in the eighth inning was the difference as the Rays split-squad team beat the Red Sox in Fort Myers 4-3.

CF Desmond Jennings and LF Matt Joyce both doubled.

Joyce was struck in the back by a pitch in his first at-bat.

RF Ben Zobrist, preparing for the World Baseball Classic, had four plate appearances. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

The Rays other split-squad team managed just four hits in a 3-2 loss to the Pirates.

Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Niemann and Fernando Rodney each pitched perfect innings to start the game.

Niemann struck out two in the second inning.

Rodney, who will join the Dominican team March 3 for the World Baseball Classic, needed 10 pitches – the last nine for strikes – to strikeout the side in the third inning.

“He is a lot further along right now than most guys, coming from (playing winter ball) and getting ready to pitch in games that mattered,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That was very sharp. That was fun to watch.”

Rodney is already throwing change-ups to go with his fastball, which is too much for hitters to deal with this early in spring training.

“That fact that he has command of two pitches right now puts him a little further ahead of the curve,” Maddon said.

To the delight of the fans in attendance at Charlotte Sports Park, Rodney fired an imaginary arrow toward the sky before ducking into the dugout.

“That was a spring training arrow,” Rodney said. “That one is a little different because it’s on the side.”

The Rays runs came in the eighth inning on CF Kevin Kiermaier’s ground-rule double to center field.

Kiermaier, who reported to minor league camp and was used to add depth to the team, tripped over Pirate 1B Clint Robinson as he round the bag and suffered a scrape on his arm. He was checked out by a trainer and remained in the game.

“I’m glad that he’s not hurt,” Maddon said. “This guy plays hard all the time.”

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