PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) — If there was a day for the flailing Tampa Bay hitters to start connecting in spring training, Saturday was it.
On an afternoon when Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine left his regulars back at camp and opted to bring minor leaguers and backups, the Rays got home runs from Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Luke Scott in a 7-all tie called after nine innings.
The Rays committed four errors, uncharacteristic for a team that preaches pitching and defense before offense.
“We were a little messy defensively,” Pena said. “Next thing you know, they’re scoring some runs because of our lapse.”
“I know they had their minor leaguers come in and play against us today, but we understand that we can play any given day a Little League team, and whoever executes the plays, that’s who’s going to win the game,” he said. “So we don’t take anything for granted, and that’s a very good lesson to be reminded.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon sent out a handful of relievers because scheduled starter Jeff Niemann was a late scratch due to a blister on his right middle finger. Niemann, who just won the fifth spot in Tampa Bay’s rotation, isn’t expected to miss his first regular season start.
Wade Davis, who lost the fifth spot to Niemann, made his first appearance since being sent to the bullpen, entering the game in the fourth inning. The right-hander labored through three innings, giving up five runs on five hits and a walk.
Davis made two errors, and four of the runs he permitted were unearned.
“If you really break Wade down, I thought he actually threw the ball pretty darn good,” Maddon said. “I thought he had a pretty good fastball, threw some really good splits, which he’s been working on. I kind of like that, some pretty good sliders. I thought overall he threw the ball pretty well. He was just the victim of some mistakes today.”
Pena homered to deep right-center in the second, moments after Ross Ohlendorf picked off Ben Zobrist at first base.
“I’ve been feeling better and better as days have gone by, and you come in and do the best you can to get to that comfort zone,” Pena said.
Longoria hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the third. He hit a solo homer in the fifth.
Jose Lobaton had a two-run double to center in the fourth and scored on a double by Sean Rodriguez to make it 5-1. Lobaton, who won the backup catcher job, went 3 for 4 and scored twice.
With the Rays down 7-6, Scott hit a tying homer in the seventh.
Ohlendorf, expected to start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, went 3 2-3 innings. He allowed five runs and seven hits.
NOTES: The Rays reassigned INF Will Rhymes and OF Jesus Feliciano to minor league camp.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.