PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- With the Rays poised to make a final decision on the odd man out of their starting rotation, right-hander Wade Davis didn't do much to help his cause Sunday afternoon.
Davis gave up four runs on seven hits, along with three walks and two homers, while striking out two in 4 2/3 innings of the Rays' 5-1 loss to the Marlins. Davis said after that he fell behind in the count far too much, got tired toward the end, and lost his fastball after a strong first inning. Manager Joe Maddon said there was nothing wrong with Davis physically, but the way his fastball velocity dipped was concerning.
Maddon reiterated that deciding on his rotation, which essentially means picking Davis or Jeff Niemann and sending the other to the bullpen, still is not an easy decision.
"We did make mention from the beginning that it wasn't about Spring Training performance," Maddon said. "It's not about that. It's not about a high ERA or having a couple bad Spring Training outings. I'd like to think we're not as superficial as that. We told all the candidates from the beginning that was not going to be the criteria utilized in making this decision."
Davis admitted he would have "loved to have done better" this spring, but he said he feels better this year at this point than he has in the past. The primary issue with Davis is not his mechanics or his stuff -- he's on par with all the Rays' starters in those departments, Maddon said -- but rather the mental side of his approach.
"He really reaches almost an elite status as a Major League pitcher. ... My goodness, the package there is wonderful," Maddon said. "How do you draw it out of him? How do you get a guy to think properly in an effort to draw those abilities out?"
Maddon said the pitcher who doesn't make the rotation will likely start the season as a long reliever, and could move to a more high-leverage role if he proves he can handle it. If that turns out to be Davis, he said he'll take it in stride.
"I'll go down there and kick [butt], too," Davis said. "It don't matter to me."
Rays planning in case Upton isn't ready
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- With B.J. Upton running out of time to get healthy and prepare for the regular season, the Rays are evaluating his sore back and considering their potential backup plans.
"It's pretty close to the point where we may not be able to get him ready for the beginning of the season," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Until we get him out there, get him swinging and see what he feels like after a day of running around, we'll not know for sure until that point. But he is making some really slow progress."
If Upton isn't ready to go by Opening Day, and if Sam Fuld's injured wrist leaves him unavailable as well, Maddon said Desmond Jennings would get the first look in center. The Rays have enough versatility with Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and their other outfield options to allow Jennings to shift from left to center.
Upton said he is still day to day and he "should" be ready for Opening Day, though he admitted his sore back has taken longer than expected to heal.
"The good thing is, it is getting better, and I don't think it should be too much longer, but who knows," Upton said. "As soon as I can get out there, I'll be out there."
Upton said he will be ready to play April 6 if he can get back on the field for the final week or so of Spring Training, but Maddon cautioned that will be dependent upon how much soreness Upton has to deal with. Upton hasn't been throwing or hitting, though he has run a little since March 14. That said, he feels comfortable with how his swing has looked, so he's not as concerned as Maddon is about the lack of at-bats this spring.
"My target date is the next day, every day. That ain't exactly working out the way I want it to," Upton said. "When it's good, it's good. When that is, I don't know. But trust me, the moment I'm able to go out there and perform, I'll be out there."
Jennings, Brignac see Minor League action
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Desmond Jennings and Reid Brignac played two innings each in a rain-shortened Minor League intrasquad game Sunday morning, and both hope to be playing with the big league club soon.
Brignac (right foot inflammation) went 0-for-2 with a flyout and a strikeout, and started a double play on the only ball he saw at shortstop. Brignac said the pain in his foot was "tolerable" following his first game in a week, and he hopes to return to the Rays' lineup sometime this week as he continues battling for the starting shortstop job.
Jennings (sore right shoulder) did not hit or throw in Sunday's intrasquad game, but he ran the bases, stealing one and scoring a run. He said he felt like he could have thrown, but he should begin playing catch Monday or Tuesday. He didn't see any balls hit his way Sunday, but playing in left field gave him a chance to keep his legs in game shape and stay used to reading fly balls.
"I feel like I could probably throw right now, but they don't want any problems later," Jennings said.
Jennings said he's able to play in a Grapefruit League game as the designated hitter, if manager Joe Maddon wanted him to get some more at-bats.
Albernaz among Rays' latest roster cuts
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays reassigned five players to Minor League camp on Sunday: catcher Craig Albernaz, outfielder Brad Coon, infielder Matt Mangini and pitchers Jhonny Nunez and Romulo Sanchez.
Manager Joe Maddon praised all five, pointing to Sanchez's impressive velocity and offspeed pitches, and solid overall play by Coon and Mangini, Nunez's success in getting out right-handed batters and the often overlooked contributions of Albernaz in working with the pitching staff.
"He's been a big part of our success just by what he does on a daily basis. He never complains about the workload," Maddon said of Albernaz. "He's a lot of fun to be around. That does not go unappreciated with me or us."
Sunday's cuts bring the Rays' current Spring Training roster to 34 players.