ST. PETERSBURG – OF Matt Joyce moved his locker this season to the back wall of the Rays clubhouse, dressing in the row that includes 3B Evan Longoria, 2B Ben Zobrist, 1B James Loney and LHP David Price.
“Moving on up,” Joyce sang Monday night, which was the theme song to the long-running sitcom “The Jeffersons.”
Joyce began the 2014 season in style, with two hits, including a double, and three RBI in the Rays 9-2 victory against the visiting Blue Jays. It was a nice debut for anyone, especially someone serving as the designated hitter – one Joyce’s least favorite roles.
“It’s something that I’ve done in the past,” Joyce said. “Obviously, you guys know that. I had a little chance to get some experience, plus doing it in spring training helps.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Joyce continued to have the quality at-bats he had during the spring, when he hit .278 with two home runs and seven RBI. Maddon said he told Joyce to utilize his skills and just play ball.
“Not to try and hit home runs, have good at-bats,” Maddon said. “The power will show up.”
Now batting ... Moochie?
Maddon compared RF Wil Myers’ trip around the bases during the eighth inning to something you might have seen in “Moochie of the Little League,” the 1959 Disney film about the exploits of Moochie Morgan and his team.
With pinch-runner Brandon Guyer on first base, Myers chopped a ball to the right of the pitchers mound for an infield hit. A pair of throwing errors – the first on RHP Jeremy Jeffers and the second on RF Jose Bautista – allowed Guyer and Myers to circle the bases.
Maddon was more impressed with the double to right-center field Myers hit off of knuckleballer RHP R.A. Dickey in the first inning and his two-run single up the middle in the second.
“With Dickey, he’s not had a lot of really good passes against him,” Maddon said. “With him doing what he did it’s probably going to accelerate his confidence going into the next time he sees him. That was really good to watch. We’re going to see this guy a lot. We’re going to see this team a lot. It’s good for him to feel better about himself after facing them.”
Maddon said the team was pumped after seeing senior baseball adviser Don Zimmer in the clubhouse before the game.
Zimmer, who undergoes daily dialysis, rode a golf cart onto the field during pregame introductions. Each member of the starting lineup gave Zimmer a hug before running out to the first base line.
“It was good to get Zim on the field before the game,” Maddon said. “I know he’s not doing that well. We totally believe he’s going to get better. Seeing him out there was kind of inspirational for us.”
Replay ... no
Maddon took a slow walk to first base in the top of the third inning after starter David Price nearly picked Colby Rasmus off with a throw to Loney. Umpire Bill Welke ruled Rasmus safe.
Maddon talked with Welke while Rays video coordinator Chris “Chico” Fernandez” checked the TV replay and called bench coach Dave Martinez in the dugout with the news Rasmus was safe.
“(Martinez) just had a very dejected look on face,” Maddon said. “Even before he gave me the sign I knew it wasn’t good.”
LF David DeJesus left the game in the eighth inning after being hit on the outside of his right foot with a pitch. X-rays were negative. “It’s not broken, so it’ll be OK,” DeJesus said ... The Rays raised their 2013 AL Wild Card banner before the game. It hangs above the left field seats to the left of the 2011 AL Wild Card banner ... Price’s 3rd annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser held Saturday raised $54,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The event has raised $124,000 over the past three years.