PORT CHARLOTTE – The play was perfect, from LHP Matt Moore’s slowing the line drive down with his glove as it sped past his head to 2B Ben Zobrist ranging to his right to grab the ball before it could reach the outfield to Zobrist’s turn and throw to first.
All that was missing was 1B Logan Forsythe keeping his foot on the bag to record what would have been the final out of the first inning during Monday’s game against the Phillies.
“I started leaning a little too soon, a little too anxious, and I had to keep going,” Forsythe said. “I tried to make it look good.”
Forsythe is forgiven. After all, it was the first time he played first base in a major league setting – regular season or spring training. There will be some growing pains.
The Rays want Forsythe to get comfortable at first base this season as a means of maxing the versatility of the bench. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Forsythe won’t likely start a game at first but he could move there in the later innings.
“I’m a versatile guy. That’s probably what I’m going to be used for,” Forsythe said. “First day when I talked to Joe we kind of got that out of the way.”
Forsythe, who has big league experience at second, shortstop and third base as well as the corner outfield positions, will see time in the outfield later in camp.
Like Kelly Johnson last season, the Rays want Forsythe to be comfortable enough to play wherever needed. Like Johnson, Forsythe will need to get acclimated to first base, since it is a complicated position. He has to hold runners on, field bunts, learn where to go for relays and cutoffs as well as field ground balls.
As first days at a new position go, Forsythe said Monday wasn’t bad.
“Didn’t get tripped up or mixed up while I was out there,” he said, “so good day.”
Zobrist made a diving catch of a line drive during infield practice earlier in the day, proving he was ready for game action.
His progress was delayed this spring because of a sore lower back sustained while working in the weight room the day before the first full-squad workout, Zobrist played his first game Monday.
“Swings, running, making throws, anything I had to do felt good, so positive step and I’ll keep gaining strength like everybody else,” he said.
Zobrist is scheduled to play Wednesday against the visiting Yankees. He will not be making any of the long trips this week when the Rays play in Fort Myers (Red Sox), Dunedin (Blue Jays) and Tampa (Yankees).
“Probably next week it will be back to normal where they stop babying me,” he said.
Moore, making his first start of the spring, said his heart rate was already up when Phillies 3B Maikel Franco lined a ball past his head in the first inning.
“It was already going,” he said. “I think that’s how I got my glove up, got a little leather on it to slow it down for Zo.”
Moore pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, getting DH John Mayberry Jr. to top a grounder to 3B Evan Longoria for the third out. His curve ball had good depth, according to Maddon, and his fastball touched 94.
“That’s pretty nice first time out,” Maddon said.
Moore said his lower body was working too fast and he couldn’t catch up with his arm. He said he liked the way the curve and fastball felt coming out of his hand.
“My arm feels good right now,” he said.
Former Rays RHP Roberto Hernandez allowed one hit and struck out three over three scoreless innings. ... Former Rays INF Reid Brignac, a non-roster invitee to Phillies camp, drew a walk as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. ... INF Cole Figueroa, who impressed Maddon last spring, had a two-run triple in the Rays five-run seventh. “Figgy’s a big league player, a major league player. I really like this guy,” Maddon said.