TOR@TB: Erik Bedard, Joe Maddon on loss to Blue Jays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Erik Bedard's final audition for the fifth spot in the Rays' rotation didn't produce the kind of numbers -- four runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings -- that match up with the work fellow candidates Cesar Ramos and Jake Odorizzi have put together this spring. But he and manager Joe Maddon liked what they saw on the mound Friday afternoon.

In other words, on the eve of Saturday's decision to name a fifth starter, it's anyone's game.

"It's not easy. They've all represented themselves extremely well," Maddon said. "We've just got to try and figure out how this thing fits and who's going to give us the best chance to win coming out of the gate."

Bedard gave up three runs on four singles in the third inning, then another in the fourth on Brett Lawrie's solo homer. But the veteran left-hander hit 92 mph on the Charlotte Sports Park radar gun, threw his breaking ball for strikes and worked in his changeup.

Maddon also liked what he saw from Bedard on Friday, just as he's liked what he's seen from Ramos and Odorizzi. He spent part of the morning talking over the decision with Rays coaches and officials, and they'll talk about it again Saturday morning before hopefully putting an end to the suspense.

"The other guys I'm competing with are really good. It's hard to make a decision, I'm sure," Bedard said. "They're going to crunch some numbers and go with their gut feeling. It's a great opportunity. I love the team and the organization. We'll see tomorrow."

Bedard said he felt like he's done enough to earn the spot, but he also pointed to Ramos' outstanding Grapefruit League numbers, including a 2.63 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. Then again, as Maddon has said throughout the spring, the final decision won't be based on Spring Training statistics.

"You've got to really look under the hood and try to figure who plays best for us as the season begins," Maddon said.

Oviedo may not begin season with Rays

Hot Stove crew breaks down Rays re-signing Oviedo

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo is feeling healthy and getting stronger by the day, but he confirmed Friday that he likely won't be ready for Opening Day.

Oviedo is hoping to find a late-inning job in the Rays' bullpen after sitting out the 2013 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but visa problems in the Dominican Republic delayed his arrival until Saturday. Thus, the right-hander is behind schedule, and manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that Oviedo is "in jeopardy" of not starting the season with Tampa Bay.

"I understand I probably won't be ready to open the season, because I haven't pitched in a long time," Oviedo said through an interpreter, reliever Joel Peralta. "So I'm just going to go with them. Whatever they decide to do with me, I'll just go with it."

The Rays re-signed Oviedo on Jan. 24 to a $1.5 million deal, worth up to $2.9 million with incentives. He hasn't pitched in the Majors since Sept. 21, 2011, when he was known as Leo Nunez. He faced hitters in a simulated game Thursday and hopes to make his Grapefruit League debut Sunday.

"Every day I pitch, I feel better and better and closer and closer," Oviedo said. "Yeah, I wish I was here since Day 1. Frustration, a little bit. But things happen."

With Oviedo unlikely to be on the 25-man roster come March 31, there will be either two or three jobs available in the Rays' Opening Day bullpen. If Cesar Ramos is named the fifth starter, there would be three spots open, with Josh Lueke, Brandon Gomes and Mark Lowe seemingly the favorites for those spots. If either Erik Bedard or Jake Odorizzi rounds out the rotation and Ramos lands back in the bullpen, those three would be competing for two jobs.

Price starts simulated game on Rays' back field

Price on being named Opening Day starter

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- With his Opening Day start against the Blue Jays only 10 days away, Rays left-hander David Price had to get his work in away from Tampa Bay's Grapefruit League game against Toronto. So the ace took to the back fields Friday and threw 106 pitches in a simulated game against Minor League hitters.

Price said he pitched into the eighth inning and seemed encouraged after the outing.

"It was a good day," Price said. "Definitely took more steps forward. It's getting there. ... It's been a good spring. Body feels good, arm feels great. It just allows me to work on stuff every day, and it's been good."

Price said he was throwing all his pitches for strikes, commanding the zone to the point where he didn't even run up a three-ball count until the last hitter he faced in the seventh inning.

"Everything was really good," Price said. "My curveball was extremely sharp. Commanded both sides with my fastball. Threw some really good changeups and some good cutters and good sliders."

While some pitchers point out that the low-key environment of a back-field game leads to a lack of adrenaline that makes pitching more difficult, Price took no such issue with his simulated game Friday.

"We had everything outside of walkout songs, the anthem and umpires. We had everything else. It was good," Price said. "The fielders were out there, guys got hits, tried to steal bases. They did a really good job with it. They took it and treated it as a game. It definitely made it a lot easier for me to do the same."

Extra bases

• Maddon said he hopes to have the Rays' complete Opening Day roster set by the middle of next week, at least before they head north to face Double-A Montgomery on March 29.

• Outfielder Matt Joyce, who left Wednesday's game against the Orioles in the first inning because of a stiff neck, said he was feeling better Friday. Joyce didn't play Friday and Maddon had no estimate for his return to the lineup, but the manager said he seems to be coming along fine.

• Maddon met Friday morning with umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford and MLB senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. to further discuss the new rules in place this season, specifically the revised instant replay guidelines and the regulations involving home-plate collisions.

"We've put it in the washing machine way too long," Maddon said. "Put it in the dryer and let's go."

• Maddon reiterated that he still sees outfielders Desmond Jennings and David DeJesus splitting time in the leadoff spot, with the right-handed-hitting Jennings getting the nod against lefties and the lefty-swinging DeJesus facing right-handers.