By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Rickie Weeks Jr. might be giving manager Kevin Cash no choice but to add his name to the 25-man roster by the end of spring training.
In five games this spring, Weeks is 7- for-10 with three doubles, two home runs, five runs scored and six knocked in.
“It’s unbelievable. He’s locked in,” Cash said. “We have to do a good job of keeping him that way, and communicating with Rickie about his work load because he’s playing first base and he’s on his feet. That’s why we got him out early today.”
It’s his bat that will be the deciding factor in whether or not he makes the 25-man roster, but he’s also still learning to adjust to the new position. Weeks has looked solid so far playing first, but he is still learning the foot work.
“I’ve played infield for a long time,” the former second baseman said. “The ground ball is nothing. Positioning, just trying to be in the right spot is the main thing for me.”
Kevin Kiermaier was removed from the lineup for the second time this week with a stiff neck. The injury still doesn’t appear to be all the serious.
“No one is worried about this at all,” Kiermaier said prior to the game. “I kind of felt it and it gradually got a little more stiff. It’s just general stiffness. It does feel a lot better today. It’s one of those things where I could wake up and it’s gone.”
Kiermaier still is unsure how exactly he hurt it, but he says he has trouble looking to his left. By all indications, it seems like he won’t get back into a game until after the weekend.
Mallex Smith made his Rays debut after nursing an oblique injury for the first few weeks of camp.
Smith, considered one of the fastest players in baseball, came up to the plate in the second inning with a runner on first and second with no outs. In one of the most obvious bunting situations, he still managed to sneak one on the Tigers by placing a perfect bunt down the third base line, not to sacrifice himself, but for a base hit.
In the field, he made an error in the first inning, dropping a fly on a windy afternoon.
“The wind didn’t play any part in me dropping the ball. I dropped the ball. But it did make it fade a little bit on me,” Smith said with a smile.
Chris Archer is expected to start later today, which could likely be his final start before joining Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.
In his first outing, Archer allowed no runs on one hit and one walk in two innings of work. He also struck out two batters.
Shawn Tolleson and Xavier Cedeno made their spring debuts in back-to-back innings on Friday.
In Tolleson’s frame, he allowed two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out a pair of Tigers.
Cedeno had a clean three-up, three-down frame. He received some help from Evan Longoria, who made a pair of nifty plays at third base.
RAYS 5, TIGERS 2
HITTER OF THE GAME
Brad Miller, Rays: The Rays’ second baseman has been getting solid contact each game, but didn’t have a hit to show for it until Friday. He had a lead-off double in the second for his first hit of the spring. He reached base three times (fielder’s choice and a single) and scored two runs.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Ryan Yarbrough, Rays: The only base runner in two innings for Yarbrough came on an error by Mallex Smith, but that’s not the best part for the 25-year-old. He struck out five batters in his 26-pitch outing.
Bottom 2nd: The Rays scored all they needed in the second inning when they plated four runs. Brad Miller and Rickie Weeks hit back-to-back doubles, with Tim Beckham and Mallex Smith following with singles. Corey Dickerson capped the scoring with an RBI single.
Jose Alvarado, Rays: The hard-throwing lefty tossed a scoreless seventh inning, recording a hold in the win. He struck out two and allowed one hit.
THEY SAID IT
“For a long time, that was all I was able to work on since I’ve been at camp. To be able to go out and execute right away, it’s wonderful to see the hard work pay off.”
— Mallex Smith, Rays OF said on his second-inning bunt single.
BALTIMORE (3-5-1) at TAMPA BAY (5-2-1)
WHEN: Today, 1:05 p.m.
WHERE: Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte
SCHEDULED STARTERS: RH Chris Archer vs. RH Ubaldo Jimenez
RAYS: RH Chris Archer (start), RH Tommy Hunter, LH Blake Snell, LH Dana Eveland, RH Danny Farquhar.
ORIOLES: RH Ubaldo Jimenez (start), LH Vidal Nuno, RH Bo Schultz, RHRyan Tepera, LH Tim Mayza
SUNDAY: at Toronto, 1:07 p.m. MONDAY: Off Day. TUESDAY: vs. New York (AL), 1:05 p.m, WEDNESDAY: vs. Team Colombia, 6:35 p.m. THURSDAY: vs. Pittsburgh, 1:05 p.m.