PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - I arrived at the Tampa Bay Rays' spring complex ahead of the Orioles' bus this morning. It's one of our shortest drives. I made it from Sarasota in under an hour.
The Rays are on the field for batting practice. Though I'm sitting in the third-level press box, I'm pretty sure I spotted former Oriole Luke Scott playing catch in the outfield.
The rifle and deer carcass gave him away.
Seriously though ...
Nick Johnson will make his first start at first base today after previously serving as the designated hitter.
"I'm looking to get out there," he said. "I enjoy playing over there. I hope to get some balls, get into the action."
Johnson has participated in infield drills, so his mitt isn't collecting dust.
"It speeds up a little bit in a game," he said, "but it's the same old thing. Let's go play."
Johnson is 1-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored this spring, but he also had two hits in Saturday's intrasquad game.
"I feel good," he said. "We'll just keep working on the swing."
Johnson is pain-free for the first time in years.
"It's good," he said. "I can work, go in the cage. Just be normal and have fun."
Those are admirable goals. I'm still a work in progress.
Brad Bergesen is scheduled to follow starter Jake Arrieta to the mound today. Right-hander Alex Cobb is starting for the Rays.
For the Rays:
Sam Fuld CF
Will Rhymes 2B
Carlos Pena 1B
Jose Molina C
Jesus Feliciano RF
Jose Lobaton DH
Matt Mangini 3B
Jeff Salazar LF
Hak-Ju Lee SS
Alex Cobb RHP
I'll assume that's the same Salazar who was an Oriole farmhand.