SARASOTA, Fla. -- Matt Joyce hit in the leadoff spot against the Orioles on Wednesday night in Port Charlotte and came away with a bunt single to the left side of a shifted infield.
Such a tactic could prove invaluable to Joyce this season.
"I think it's just going to open the field a little bit," Joyce said. "It's just going to change the way they play defense against me. I even did it three or four times last year. It's not something I'm shy to do, or don't want to do. If the opportunity is there and it presents itself in the situation of the game.
"I want to play the game the right way and get on base. So for me, it's something I've worked hard on. And I'm having fun with it."
Rays manager Joe Maddon noted what putting down a few bunts could do for Joyce.
"Probably would mean at least 15 points in his batting average, which would bring up his on-base percentage," Maddon said. "I don't know how many points it means in regards to your confidence. And then beyond that, and again, it's how the other team reacts, regarding how they perceive things what they want to do with their defense.
"Even more than the bunt, a hard ground ball to the left side would totally open up their minds to re-adjusting. I just like the idea that he's playing the game right now."
Joyce would like nothing better than to step up to the plate and see the defenders playing him straight away because hitting into an infield shifted to the right is not fun for a left-handed hitter.
"Oh man, it's annoying," Joyce said. "It's very, very frustrating. It's heartbreaking. You hit one hard and it's right at someone. You just don't want to be labeled as that one particular hitter."
Thus, Joyce is working on hitting balls the other way, too.
"Obviously that opens some more holes for me," Joyce said. "I've been hitting a lot of balls the opposite way, and I'm starting to take pride in that. But that's what it's going to take to get that average back up to where I want it to be."
Maddon sets rotation with no surprises
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Joe Maddon announced the order of the Rays' rotation Thursday night and the Rays manager had no surprises.
Beyond the previously annouced Opening Day starter David Price, the order will be: Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.
"Very mundane," Maddon teased. "We looked at a bunch of things and just felt like playing it straight up is going to be fine. The schedule didn't necessarily show anything one way or the other, so we just played it straight up."
The fact that the order is what most felt it would be does not mean that the Rays took the decision lightly. Many different scenarios were taken into consideration.
"The little things you're looking at, you always look at," Maddon said. "There's left and right-handed back and forth, is one of the things. You're always looking at the guys you bet on to maybe pitch deeper into the game. And saving bullpens, and if you find a couple of guys back to back that you don't necessarily like, then you try and break that up. But we didn't see that. So we just played it straight."
Maddon was asked if he favored having the lefties, Price and Moore, split up by a right-hander like Cobb.
"It depends," Maddon said. "If you're playing a heavily left-handed team, then you want them both there.
"... [But] I don't see that as a big issue. I really don't. That's not a heavy part of it. But with us, I kind of think it's an easy get to put Cobb between those two guys."
Maddon noted that the entire rotation presents "pretty difficult to the other side."
"I'm certain other teams see our rotation come to town and they're not really pleased about it," Maddon said. "I mean there's a lot of teams we play that we hate seeing their rotation, too, because of how tough it's going to be. I think every time we send out the three or four starters, the other team looks at it and says that's pretty good."
Gomes, Luecke appear to win bullpen spots
SARASOTA, Fla. -- While nothing official has been announced, right-handers Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke appear to be choices to claim the final two spots in the Rays' bullpen.
That means the Rays will start the season with Grant Balfour as the closer, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Heath Bell in setup roles, Cesar Ramos as the long man, then Gomes and Lueke.
Juan Carlos Oviedo was expected to be in the mix, but the fact that he was late to camp due to visa issues coupled with the fact he hasn't pitched in a Major League game since September 2011, complicated matters.
Thus, Oviedo doesn't appear headed for the Opening Day roster, primarily due to the fact the Rays are concerned about rushing him and having him get re-injured. Oviedo missed all of 2012 and 2013 after Tommy John surgery to his right elbow.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.