PORT CHARLOTTE — Judging by the way the Tampa Bay Rays tend to play up the moment, there figures to be quite the ceremony before Wednesday’s Grapefruit League opener against the visiting Cincinnati Reds at the Charlotte Sports Park.
Not only are the Rays back in uniform for the first time since Game 5 of the World Series, they are opening their new spring training stadium and playing the first game in Port Charlotte since the spring of 2002.
With that in mind, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he will make sure the defending American League champions are well-represented, at least for the first three innings.
“They’re going to announce the starting lineups, so I’m going to talk to the guys and see if I can get an at-bat out of everybody,” Maddon said. “I think it will be great. These people are going to show up to see our guys and acknowledge what we done last year and the opening of the new facility, I think it would be appropriate. As long as there is no nicks, bumps or bruises, I probably will do that. You’ll see an A lineup out there, and then it will move along from there.”
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Your starter is ...
Carlos Hernandez, a non-roster invitee, will pitch Wednesday against the Reds.
“This fellow here we find intriguing,” Maddon said. “He’s been fighting to get everything back during winter ball. I saw him in Venezuela not this year, but last year. And since then his stuff has really come on. He’s a very competitive young man, and I think there’s a lot left, and I want to see it, so we thought it would be kind of interesting to get him out there early.”
The left-handed Hernandez has pitched in parts of three seasons with the Houston Astros before his career was sidetracked by arm injuries. He’s had four operations, including one that cost him all of the 2007 season. He also missed the 2003 season because of surgeries to repair a torn labrum and the rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder.
Lot of saves
Troy Percival and Jason Isringhausen have combined for 645 career saves.
Maddon sees similarities in both, calling Isringhausen a “clone” of Percival.
“Izzy is Percy with maybe having done maybe a thousand more sit-ups,” Maddon said.