PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - In his first at-bat, Evan Longoria had no answer for Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
"I mean, really, all I could do was laugh," the Tampa Bay slugger said. "He threw me three of the best ones I had seen from him."
Wakefield's success didn't last.
Longoria and Manny Ramirez hit consecutive home runs off the 44-year-old pitcher, and the Rays battered Wakefield in a 7-3 victory Friday night over a Red Sox split squad.
Kelly Shoppach and Ben Zobrist also homered as the Rays built a 6-0 lead after three innings against Wakefield, who gave up seven hits.
"The one that I hit was probably a pretty good pitch, too," Longoria said. "It's one of those at-bats where my approach is just swing hard because you can't have an approach against a pitch like that."
Ramirez's third home run of the spring sailed out of the stadium and into the pond beyond the boardwalk in left field. By then, the Rays' lead was 6-0.
It was Wakefield's worst outing in four turns and he placed the blame on poor mechanics.
"I just couldn't prevent it," he said. "I knew what I was doing wrong and couldn't stop it."
The game was a matchup of two starters who will begin the season in their respective bullpens. Tampa Bay right-hander Andy Sonnanstine dodged trouble for the first four innings before Boston got to him for three runs in the fifth. None of them came on a hit, however.
Sonnanstine walked four and struck out four in 4 1-3 innings. He gave up three runs and four hits.
Jose Lobaton's RBI single in the eighth for the Rays capped the scoring. Joel Peralta and Juan Cruz closed it out, combining for three scoreless innings as the four Tampa Bay pitchers combined to strike out 11 batters.
With Boston's rotation being set on Thursday, Wakefield entered Friday knowing he was ticketed for the bullpen. He said he would be fine with any role.
"Pitching's pitching," he said. "Doesn't matter if it's the middle of the game or starting a clean inning, doesn't matter to me. I don't think past tomorrow. Whenever I'm called upon to try and get outs, whether it's in relief or as a starter, I'll do my best when asked."
Longoria said Boston was better with Wakefield than without him.
"He's a kind of guy who can really throw a lineup off whenever you see him," Longoria said. "He's one of those guys that, if he's on and that knuckleball's really moving, it's tough to hit. A lot of times you've just got to laugh it off because you swing and the ball's just not there."