Notes: Right-field platoon growing
Percival pleased with spring debut; Rays, Phillies add innings
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have a plan for right field this season. Manager Joe Maddon has said early and often that he wants to rotate a "triangle" of Cliff Floyd, Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes. But that triangle could soon morph into a much different, many-sided shape.
With Baldelli's health progressing slower than the Rays expected and veteran Floyd expressing a desire to maintain the designated hitter slot, the Rays have taken long looks at Gomes, Justin Ruggiano, John Rodriguez, Joel Guzman and Jon Weber to help fill the void.
Gomes is the frontrunner but has struggled to remain consistent and healthy in his first three seasons in the Majors. Although Gomes knows he can't control the club's decision, the 27-year-old said Friday that his goal is to be ready for anything.
"All I can do is be healthy and play both sides," said Gomes, who has seen action in five of the Rays' first six games. "I'm ready for 162 games, whether I do play or I don't play."
Two players who were projected limited play, Rodriguez and Weber, are quickly moving up on the radar. Maddon mentioned how impressed he was with the two invitees Friday morning, praising their attitudes and work ethic.
"They're the kind of guys that I like to see on a team," Maddon said.
"John Rod's got some definite juice at the end of his bat and Weber's got a lot of bat speed, and I love the way he plays."
Utility man Ben Zobrist is another option in the outfield, but Maddon said no decisions will be made anytime soon.
"We're just trying to give a lot of these guys as much looking time as we can," he said.
Rodriguez, for one, is thankful merely for the opportunity. The 30-year-old played with Triple-A Memphis last season before the Rays signed him to a Minor League contract with an invite to camp.
"It means the world to me," he said. "I've never been in a camp like this, where the manager is interested in every ballplayer on his team."
Of particular interest to Maddon and the Rays staff in the coming weeks will be Baldelli's health. The outfielder did not play Thursday or Friday and wasn't expected to be in Saturday's lineup.
"Obviously, just like when [Scott Kazmir] got injured, we started to look at other people more closely," Maddon said. "We're going to monitor the Rocco thing and see where this goes."
As for a hint as to who might be penciled in during Baldelli's absence, Maddon is mum.
"At this point, I like what I'm seeing from all these guys," he said.
Percival pleased: Troy Percival breezed through Thursday's Spring Training debut like the veteran he is. The 38-year-old closer retired all three batters he faced, throwing nine pitches in one inning of work. The right-hander was in high spirits on Friday, saying he felt perfectly healthy.
"I could pitch again today if I had to," he said Friday.
Maddon also reported to be pleased with Percival's work, but did not say when he would get on the mound again.
Extra innings: Due to Tuesday's rainout and Thursday's shortened game, the Rays played extra innings on Friday to help catch up their bullpens. Maddon said it was a mutual decision made by the Rays and the visiting Phillies.
"We have plenty of baseball in us," he said.
Four Rays stretched their arms out, pitching one inning each. Jae Kuk Ryu retired all three batters he faced, striking out one. Righty Calvin Medlock gave up one hit, while James Houser gave up two hits and one run. Righty Wade Davis gave up two hits, and Jake McGee allowed one.
This and that: Players' union leader Donald Fehr met with the Rays on Friday morning. Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players' Association, plans on meeting with all 30 teams during the next six weeks. ... Right-hander Chris Mason was excused from camp with a family emergency and missed Friday's game. It is unknown when he will return. ... Righty Andy Sonnanstine has been nursing an ear infection since earlier this week, but is on antibiotics and said it hasn't been a hindrance to his play. "It's pretty minor," he said.
What they're saying: "I think so. But it's still really early in spring. There's a lot of games to be played, and there's a lot of guys in the running. There's no guarantees for any of us that are out there fighting for those two spots. We've just got to go out there and play ball." -- Niemann, on whether his second start Friday helped his chances in the rotation battle
Up next: The Rays will travel to Tampa, Fla., to take on the Yankees in a 1:15 p.m. ET contest at Legends Field on Saturday. Matt Garza is scheduled to start for the Rays and will be followed by Scott Dohmann, Brian Anderson, Kurt Birkins and Scott Munter. Top Draft pick David Price is also scheduled to make his first Spring Training appearance. Right-hander Mike Mussina will start for the Yankees with Jeff Karstens also slated to pitch.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.