--3B Evan Longoria will join Team USA for the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. The U.S. squad needed a third baseman to replace injured Chipper Jones.
--OF Fernando Perez will be sidelined for about three months because of a dislocated left wrist sustained while diving for a ball in a March 10 exhibition game. Though Perez probably would have spent most of the season at Triple-A, his absence could be significant because if CF B.J. Upton is not recovered from left shoulder surgery by opening day, Perez most likely would have been on the roster. Now Justin Ruggiano is the likely favorite.
--RHP Troy Percival remains adamant that he will be healthy and ready to resume his role as the closer by opening day, and he provided the doubters no ammunition with an impressive stint in the first of his eight scheduled exhibition outings on March 12. Percival worked a 1-2-3 inning, needing only nine pitches, and had to make several plays. "I accomplished everything I wanted to do," he said.
--DH Pat Burrell was acquired for his power, but he should make a significant impact on the Rays lineup with his patience as well. Burrell ranks second among all big-leaguers in walks over the last four seasons, with 4.20, and ranks fifth among active players with an average of 4.20 pitches per plate appearance.
--LHP Scott Kazmir and manager Joe Maddon have different spins on the issue, but both agree that the key to him improving this season is to throw a better slider. Maddon suggested Kazmir had lost his feel for the pitch. Kazmir said it was more a matter of health, that he was never able to get full extension with his arm last season following a spring elbow injury.
--LHP David Price was dazzling in the postseason, but his chances to win a spot in the Rays rotation at the start of this season seem like a longshot at best. The Rays want Price, the top pick of the 2007 draft, to further refine his changeup, and they want to limit his innings in his second pro season, making it more likely he will open the season at Triple-A Durham. "We want him to be very successful right out of the chute, without any hesitation or backward movements," manager Joe Maddon said. "We don't want him going back and forth between here and Triple-A. When he gets here, we want him to stay here for a very long time. That's why we want everything to be as perfect as possible."
BY THE NUMBERS
7 -- Losses by Tampa Bay in the first 14 exhibitions. The Rays lost only eight times last spring.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's the 'Web Gem' tax. Sometimes, somebody's going to have to pay it. I had to pay it." -- OF Fernando Perez, after dislocating his left wrist attempting a diving catch.
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