LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo has received his work visa from his native Dominican and is expected to report to camp Saturday.
The reliever, expected to play a major a role in the late innings as the Rays build the bridge to closer Grant Balfour, has 16 days to get ready for Opening Day. The best case scenario, according to manager Joe Maddon, is Oviedo can make four or five appearances before the March 31 opener against Toronto.
“That might be enough, depends on what kind of shape we think he’s in. We’ll see,” Maddon said. “He’s pretty much right on the line of being able to do this or not.”
The Rays received reports Oviedo was pitching to hitters while waiting for his visa, but apparently he was throwing with hitters only standing at the plate, Maddon said. He wasn’t pitching in game situations, and that might set him back.
That Oviedo will work only an inning once the regular season begins means he doesn’t need as many outings as a starter. But the lack of time might force him to begin the season on the disabled list until he builds the necessary arm strength.
RHP Chris Archer was fortunate to walk away from his meeting at first base Friday with Braves RF Jason Heyward, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds.
Archer was covering the bag after Heyward grounded to 1B Jerry Sands. Pitcher and runner arrived at nearly the same time.
“Jason Heyward is a big dude and he was coming full speed, but he just grazed the outside of my foot,” Archer said. “My foot was flat on the bag somehow, so it worked out perfectly.”
Said Maddon: “That was awkward. I was watching it closely. I saw his whole foot across the bag. It was hard for Heyward to avoid anything, but he did not catch him in the ankle. He caught him on the top of his foot, which was probably the best thing that can happen.”
Archer left the game with two out in the fifth inning, having thrown 74 pitches, 47 for strikes.
His fastball, slider and curveball were sharp and he held the Braves A-lineup to one run on four hits. He also struck out six.
“I, obviously, could have done some things better, but getting into the fifth inning was the most important thing,” Archer said. “There were base runners on so I was able to work out of the stretch and work with runner son first and second, second and third.”
3B Evan Longoria, 2B Ben Zobrist, 1B James Loney, OF David DeJesus and C Ryan Hanigan took batting practice Friday at Tropicana Field, testing the stadium’s new batter’s eye.
“(It was) more curiosity, that it would be sufficient, that they thought, ‘OK, I saw the ball well.’ I’m not expecting a whole lot,” Maddon said. “I don’t know how important it is other than from a construction perspective, ‘OK, this is working well. It’s high enough. It’s wide enough. There’s no obstruction.’ So it’s almost like you’re doing it for the people who are installing the backdrop and the restaurant.”
The three candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation — LHP Cesar Ramos, RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Erik Bedard — are scheduled to pitch Saturday when the Rays play split-squad games against the visiting Blue Jays and in Bradenton against the Pirates. Each could get another turn before the Rays name the fifth starter, Maddon said. ...LHP Jake McGee pitched an inning Friday in a Triple A game. He allowed one run on one hit and struck out one batter. ...Maddon will manage the game against the Blue Jays, bench coach Dave Martinez the game in Bradenton.