Notes: Maddon hopes two become one
Iwamura, Bartlett should be inseparable according to manager
ST. PETERSBURG -- Akinori Iwamura is new to second base and must grow familiar with the position this spring, which means shortstop Jason Bartlett will see a lot of Grapefruit League action, since manager Joe Maddon wants the keystone pair to grow familiar with one another to the point where they are inseparable.
"That should be one last name," Maddon said. "I'm trying to figure out -- is it Iwalett? Is it Bartamura? I'm not sure exactly what it is yet, but that's what I want it to become."
Bartlett doesn't mind being linked to Iwamura.
Maddon "definitely wants us to be together, but Aki's a great guy," Bartlett said. "He has to be like my second hand and vice versa. I've got to almost know what he's going to do before he does it. And he's a great guy, I like being around him because he's always having fun, always smiling. If a guy's having fun, I want to be around him. And he likes to work. He still wants to learn and get better."
Bartlett is convinced about the success of Iwamura's transition from third to second.
"I don't think he really has to get much better," Bartlett said. "I think he's fine right now."
Maddon said Iwamura is a lot further along than he anticipated.
"Just watching him in pregame turning double plays, he's looked real good," Maddon said. "In the game, he looked real comfortable. And his at-bats, the other thing nobody talked about, when you switch positions like that, sometimes it can affect your offense. But I like what he's doing at the plate also. So, so far, so good."
Iwamura was the pivotman on a 6-4-3 double play against the Blue Jays on Saturday.
Baldelli back: Rocco Baldelli played against Major Leaguers on Saturday for the first time since injuring himself on May 15 while running out a ground ball against the Rangers.
"It's been a while since I played in somewhat of a real game," said Baldelli, who grounded out twice playing DH and felt fine afterward. "[It was] a positive day."
Baldelli will likely have one more stint at DH before playing in the outfield later in the week. Above all else, the Rays want Baldelli to go easy while working himself into shape.
"We just encourage him to not try and beat anything out -- just try to stay in a steady gait throughout," Maddon said. "Even like going from first to home, second to home, just try to stay in a steady gait. We're telling him to do that. But of course, here comes the moment, here comes the game, the athlete, his competitive nature. He's actually going to have to fight against that at some point."
Baldelli said it's tough to hold back, but added: "I'm going to do what I have to do to be ready on Opening Day."
Hot Stove Show on Monday night: The Rays' Hot Stove Radio Show, "Countdown to Opening Day," goes live from Champps Americana on Monday at 6 p.m. ET on 620-AM WDAE. Champps is located in Tampa at 2223 North West Shore.
Monday's show will feature Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and Evan Longoria, who will also be available for a brief autograph session. The one-hour program will air every Monday evening throughout Spring Training and will include live interviews with Rays players, coaches and staff, with live listener call-ins.
Rays radio broadcasters Andy Freed and Dave Wills will host the program. The show will also be available via podcast on raysbaseball.com.
This and that: The Rays have painted a home plate in right-center field at Progress Energy Park approximately where the home plate will be for the proposed new waterfront ballpark. ... Right-hander Juan Salas still has not reported to camp due to visa problems. ... Shortstop Reid Brignac has been fitted with a special shoe to protect him from further injuring the small toe on his right foot that he broke earlier in the week. "He's getting better," Maddon said. "I'm not sure exactly when he's going to participate. It's getting closer. He threw well without any pain. We have to make sure he can swing the bat without any pain. He's got that protective device on his shoe. But he's getting better." ... Scott Kazmir, who is on the shelf with a left elbow strain, remains in the first stage of his recovery, which is to get the inflammation out of his elbow before starting to throw again. Kazmir is "still in Stage 1," Maddon said. "The stiffness is getting better, so we're getting closer to getting to Stage 2." When asked, Kazmir reported: "I'm 100 percent." And about being ready by Opening Day? "Don't know about that yet," Kazmir said. ... Dioner Navarro will DH some in Sunday's game -- after Cliff Floyd leaves the game -- and is slated to make his first appearance of the spring at catcher Monday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla.
Up next: The Rays travel to Bradenton, Fla., on Sunday afternoon to play the Pirates in a 1:05 ET contest at McKechnie Field. Jeff Niemann will start for the Rays and will be followed by Jae Kuk Ryu, Scott Munter, Kurt Birkins and Wade Davis. Paul Maholm will start for the Pirates and will be followed by John Van Benschoten, Josh Sharpless, Brian Rogers, Jaret Wright, John Grabow and Matt Capps. The game can be heard on radio on 1250-AM WHNZ.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.