CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer will be joined by his family to deliver the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Rays season-opening game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field on April 2 at 3:10 p.m. ET.
Zimmer, 82, is entering his 65th season in professional baseball. This will be his 54th Major League Opening Day. This is also his 10th season with the Rays, equaling his most years with one Major League club.
Zimmer has been a Major League coach, manager or advisor every year since 1971. During his career, he has worn the uniforms of 14 Major League teams. He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and broke into the Major Leagues as an infielder in 1954. His Major League playing career spanned 12 seasons with the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Reds and Senators.
Previous first pitches at Rays home openers:
1998: Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Monte Irvin and Al Lopez
1999: Larry Doby
2000: Wade Boggs
2001: St. Petersburg Mayor David J. Fischer
2002: United States Army General Tommy Franks
2003: Jon Gruden and Rich McKay, Tampa Bay Bucs
2004: Winky Wright, World Junior Middleweight Champ
2005: Racing legend Michael Andretti
2006: Al Lopez, Jr., Al Lopez III and Al Lopez IV
2007: Governor Charlie Crist
2008: Governor Charlie Crist and Buccaneers' great Mike Alstott
2009: Governor Charlie Crist
2010: Admiral Eric Thor Olson, Commander, US Special Ops
2011: Florida Governor Rick Scott
2012: Jim Dundee, son of the late boxing legend Angelo Dundee
Tickets to the opener are available in a handful of sections at Tropicana Field. The team expects its eighth consecutive Opening Day sellout. Tickets are available at all regular Rays outlets including raysbaseball.com and raysbeisbol.com, the Tropicana Field box office, the Rays' Tampa office located at 400 N. Tampa Street, all Ticketmaster outlets and Ticketmaster phone, or by calling 1-888-FAN-RAYS.
Maddon sees positives in Hernandez's Tuesday outing
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Roberto Hernandez cruised for four scoreless innings Tuesday against the Phillies before surrendering four runs in the fifth and five in the sixth.
And this was the right-hander's last start before a decision is made regarding whether he or Jeff Niemann will be the team's No. 5 starter.
Hernandez said he wasn't doing anything different in his last two innings of work than he did in his first four. Even though Hernandez's final line was ugly -- nine earned runs in six innings -- Rays manager Joe Maddon wasn't upset about what he saw.
"I thought Roberto threw the ball well today," Maddon said. "A lot of the damage was done by balls hit on the ground. I thought he had good stuff, so I was not displeased by any of that.
"I thought the ball looked alive from the side. Really pitch efficient, which is important, I think. And again, with our regular-season defense being in the right spots, it could be good. I was not discouraged at all."
Maddon concluded by noting that Hernandez was a ground-ball pitcher, and this type of pitcher inducing ground balls "is not a bad thing."
As for the pending decision about who will be the team's fifth starter, Niemann will make his last start of spring Wednesday afternoon against the Blue Jays. Whichever one of the two does not win the job will go to the bullpen. Maddon said they will wait to make that decision until Wednesday.
Rays' roster likely set after Gomes sent to Triple-A
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's roster appears to be set after right-hander Brandon Gomes received the news Tuesday morning that he had been optioned to Triple-A Durham.
The move essentially put the team's roster at 25 since catcher Craig Albernaz and right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo, who are still in camp, are not considered to be in competition for jobs.
Oviedo, formerly known as Leo Nunez, had Tommy John surgery in September and is unlikely to pitch in the Majors this season. The Rays will likely place him on the 60-day disabled list.
"[Gomes] nailed Spring Training. He might have had the best Spring Training of any pitcher in camp," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But looking at the macro situation, you have to look at the whole thing. We decided this is the best way to go right now."
Gomes felt like he did all he could to make the team.
"I threw the ball well," Gomes said. "I felt great all spring. It's a good sign going into the rest of the year. That's something I feel I can sustain. So keep going, keep doing what I've been doing and stay ready."
Tampa Bay's bullpen to begin the season will be as follows: Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Kyle Farnsworth, Jamey Wright and the loser of the Roberto Hernandez/Jeff Niemann competition for the No. 5 spot.
Gomes basically lost out to veteran right-hander Wright, who signed a Minor League contract on Jan. 22.
"Honestly, the deal there is just trying to deal with the people that are available to you the best you possibly can at the moment," Maddon said. "I'm talking about depth. Brandon Gomes is good enough -- better than good enough -- to be a Major League pitcher today. He deserves to be a Major League pitcher today. And he could be a very productive Major League pitcher today. But right now we don't have that particular job for him at this moment.
"The flip side, again, I think Jamey Wright is going to pitch a lot better than what you saw in this Spring Training. It's a situation for us where this is kind of how we looked at it in the offseason working out."
Gomes said he understood the situation.
"It's just how it goes sometimes. It's how the game works," Gomes said. "Just go down there and stay ready for whenever the opportunity comes for me to come back up here."
The rest of the Opening Day roster will be as follows:
Outfielders: Sam Fuld, Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce
Infielders: Evan Longoria, Yunel Escobar, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, James Loney
DH: Luke Scott
Catchers: Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton
Starting rotation: David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Hernandez/Niemann.
Fuld likely to play Wednesday, Scott on the mend
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Rays manager Joe Maddon gave updates on Sam Fuld (tight right hamstring) and Luke Scott (tightness in right calf) on Tuesday.
"Sam's doing real well. Luke's fine too," Maddon said.
Fuld has seen a lot of Minor League action lately and could see more in Wednesday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays, even though he hits left-handed and lefty J.A. Happ is starting for the Blue Jays.
Meanwhile, Maddon was unsure about whether Scott would be available to play Wednesday.
"As far as I know, he's going to be fine," said Maddon when asked if Scott might be a question mark for Opening Day.
The calf has "a little knot in it," Scott said. "It's kind of bounced around my body, started in my left leg and now it's in my right leg."
A left-hamstring problem slowed Scott earlier in camp.
Scott was asked if he was concerned about not being ready for Opening Day.
"Is it a concern?" Scott asked. "It's not something I want to happen, because right now is when I want to start playing every day. I really want to get locked in. On Opening Day I really want to be locked in.
"But I got to make sure that there is no issue. I don't want to go out there if it's really tight and push and have something happen. It's just being smart. This is what Spring Training is for, working out these things."
Maddon welcomes high expectations for Rays
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A reporter called to Joe Maddon's attention that Sports Illustrated predicted that the Rays will play in the 2013 World Series, where they will lose to the Nationals.
"I'll take it," Maddon said. "Not the losing part, but I'll take getting to the World Series. That's interesting. ... I was unaware of that. That's very complimentary."
In the past, greatness as anointed by Sports Illustrated has been said to be a jinx. Maddon didn't seem to be too worried about the attention.
"I love it," Maddon said. "I think it's great. You never run away from that kind of stuff. Expectations are good. I like expectations. I think it gives you something live up to. There may have been a time when you would run away from [being picked by Sports Illustrated] or cower a little bit. But I think we're beyond that. And I would like to believe that our players like hearing that kind of thing, too. So I think that's a good thing."
Maddon's wife concludes cross-country trip for charity
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Monday night, Joe Maddon's wife, Jaye Maddon, pulled the couple's RV into the driveway of their Tampa home, concluding a 2,600-mile cross-country road trip from their home in Long Beach, Calif.
Jaye was accompanied by her sons, Ryan, 26, and Dylan,19, and pets Winston (English bulldog) and Athena (Great Dane).
Jaye was collecting penny-a-mile pledges to benefit the Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Petersburg.
"Really proud of her. That's quite an achievement -- young lady, and two boys and two dogs. Could be a sitcom of some kind, going 2,500 miles in six days," Maddon said. "She did really well."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.