Loney, Jennings combine for five hits in shutout of Yanks

Loney, Jennings combine for five hits in shutout of Yanks

TAMPA, Fla. -- James Loney doubled as part of a three-hit performance, helping to lead the Rays to a 3-0 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Desmond Jennings doubled and scored on Loney's second-inning single to bring home the first run of the afternoon. Jordan Norberto started for Tampa Bay and threw two scoreless innings.

Jennings scored twice and had two hits in three at-bats, raising his average to .463 for the spring.

"I feel pretty good," Jennings said. "Feel like I've prepared myself for [the season]."

Chase Whitley started for New York and scattered four hits, striking out six without a walk over four innings. Yankees shortstop Brendan Ryan had to be helped off the field in the sixth inning with what was deemed a right calf strain, sustained after trying to barehand a Kevin Kiermaier chopper that produced two Rays runs on the error.

Whitley strikes out six

Awaiting Erasmo: The Rays are hoping new acquisition Erasmo Ramirez will arrive Wednesday night. Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman was asked how good of a starter Ramirez can be. "We're going to ask him to go out there and get us a number of outs, get us through a number of innings," Silverman said. "The strength of this club is going to be the depth of our pitching, and we're going to make sure we get the most out of the entire staff. We'll figure out precise rules as we get into the season, but we know those rules are going to change as we get players back from injury."

Two Rays score on fielding error

Ellsbury back in action: Jacoby Ellsbury played in a Grapefruit League game for the first time since March 15, returning from an oblique strain. Ellsbury appeared in a Minor League game on Tuesday, going 2-for-5, and has said he has no doubts about being ready for Opening Day.

Ellsbury returns to the field

Balfour blank: Grant Balfour made his fourth appearance of the spring, retiring the side in order in the third with a strikeout. He has allowed just one hit -- a home run -- and a walk this spring. The veteran right-hander will make one more appearance, on Friday, and he said he should be ready for the season after that.

"My stuff's good. I'm happy where I'm at right there," Balfour said. "Feel good. I'm out there throwing strikes, and that's what I want to do. I feel like I'm working a little faster and throwing strikes. And that's a good thing."

Rays manager Kevin Cash has been impressed by Balfour's work this spring.

"For a limited spring, he has looked very sharp," Cash said. "And he keeps getting better."

Sappington notches the save

Andriese's fate: Matt Andriese appeared to be the favorite to land the No. 4 slot in the Rays' rotation until the team acquired Ramirez. Cash noted that Andriese is "in a good spot."

"He's done a good job," Cash said. "See how the next three or four days play out."

Cash allowed that Andriese could earn a bullpen spot, or he could still start (though that appears unlikely at this point). The Rays must set their 25-man roster by Sunday's 3 p.m. ET deadline.

"I would anticipate all of us talking sometime during an Easter-egg hunt."
-- Cash, on the Rays' final roster going down to the wire on Easter Sunday's deadline.

Rays: Drew Smyly (left shoulder tendinitis) threw to hitters on Wednesday. Alex Colome (pneumonia) is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Friday. Jake McGee (left elbow surgery) and Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) are both scheduled to throw bullpen sessions on Friday. Alex Cobb (right forearm tendinitis) continues to play catch, but is not yet scheduled to throw off a mound.

Ryan's apparent injury

Yankees: Didi Gregorius (left wrist strain) took ground balls and hit in the batting cages at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday. He is listed on the Yankees' travel roster to play Thursday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. Ryan, meanwhile, was slated for an MRI to determine the severity of his injury.

Chris Archer will start for the Rays Thursday afternoon when the Rays travel to Clearwater to play the Phillies in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Archer will be the team's Opening Day starter. Also scheduled to pitcher are Nathan Karns, C.J. Riefenhauser and Steve Geltz. Jerome Williams is scheduled to pitch for the Phillies.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.