Notes: Rays say Tavarez got 'lucky'

Notes: Devil Rays say Tavarez got 'lucky'

BRADENTON, Fla. -- A day after the fracas between Joey Gathright and Julian Tavarez, Gathright's Devil Rays teammates said the Red Sox pitcher was lucky Gathright did not inflict harm on him.

Monday's action began when Tavarez covered home plate to catch a throw because catcher Ken Huckaby had to run up the first-base line to complete a rundown. As Tavarez braced for the throw home from second baseman Zach Borowiak, Gathright ran to the plate. Tavarez's left leg got caught on Gathright's right forearm as he tagged him out.

Gathright then pushed Tavarez's leg and hollered something at him. As Gathright got up off the ground, Tavarez gave him a right hook to the face, and then another punch to the top of the head.

Turns out Gathright is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, having studied the Korean martial art from ages 8 to 18, before stopping after he got drafted to play baseball.

"Well, I've seen Gathright do some sort of ninja kick over this dude's head who was 6-foot-7 -- this roundhouse kick -- over his head just to show he can do it," Jonny Gomes said. "Yeah, I guess you can call [Tavarez] lucky."

Damon Hollins agreed Tavarez got off easy.

"Julian is a little bit lucky he didn't use none of that stuff on him," Hollins said. "We'll wait for the next time for him to break some of that karate stuff out -- if there is a next time."

Gathright is understated and not one to boast about his talents, but he agreed with his teammates' opinions.

"I could have done a lot yesterday, but he caught me off guard," Gathright said. "There's no reason to fight anyway, but it does help to know how to fight."

So was Tavarez lucky?

"Probably, yeah," Gathright said.

Kazmir's results not good: Scott Kazmir pitched 4 1/3 innings on Tuesday against the Pirates and allowed seven runs -- four earned -- on 11 hits and two walks. He did manage to strike out six Pittsburgh batters.

"I'm really not concerned with this," Kazmir said. "I felt great. [I] felt like I was spotting [the ball] on both sides of the plate. I can't count how many broken-bat hits that happened, and little bleeders. It could easily have gone the other way. My command was good.

"I was making some good pitches, just some of them they threw the bat out there, and you know, get it through the hole. That's baseball."

Manager Joe Maddon liked what he saw, too.

"I thought he threw the ball great," Maddon said. "He's going to be fine. I liked what he did today."

Kazmir will be the Rays' Opening Day starter on Monday in Baltimore.

"I feel like I'm ready, I really do," Kazmir said.

Roster moves: Left-hander Wayne Franklin was reassigned to Minor League camp on Tuesday and right-hander Tim Corcoran was optioned to Triple-A Durham.

By shipping Franklin out, the Rays confirmed they would start the season without a left-hander in the bullpen.

"[It] never concerned me," said Maddon when asked about the absence of a lefty in his 'pen. "Unless you feel really good about having someone to get a lefty out with, I don't really see necessarily why you have to have one.

"The only thing [not having a left-hander] might do is impact the batting order before the game sometimes. [It] keeps the other team from stacking it against you. If you're not going to use him to get out the better lefties, than why stock one? That's how I looked at it."

The Rays now have 15 pitchers in camp, which includes starters Kazmir, Seth McClung, Casey Fossum, Mark Hendrickson, and the winner of the Doug Waechter-Edwin Jackson competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Meanwhile, nine relievers are competing for seven spots, unless Waechter is moved to the bullpen, which would leave just six spots. Relievers still in camp include: Dan Miceli, Chad Orvella, Shawn Camp, Ruddy Lugo, Chad Harville, Jesus Colome, Travis Harper, Jason Childers and Justin Miller.

Rays Hispanic radio: The Rays and Mega Communications announced a partnership on Tuesday that will call for all 2006 Rays games to be broadcast on Mega Classic 820 WMGG. Mega Classic is the strongest AM Hispanic station in the Tampa Bay market. Enrique Oliu will return for his sixth season as color analyst on Rays Hispanic Radio broadcasts and will be joined by Ricardo Taveras, who called Rays play-by-play in Spanish in 2000 and 2001.

Injury updates: Rocco Baldelli took batting practice on Tuesday and he felt good. "So we'll do that again [Wednesday] and see how that turns out," Maddon said. "He told me today personally how much better that he did feel. And then I watched him hit and he looked fine. See where it takes us, but he's feeling better." Maddon said a decision about Baldelli playing Opening Day could go all the way to the last possible moment. ... Sean Burroughs continues to nurse a bad back. "We haven't been able to get him out there yet," Maddon said. "He's the proverbial day to dayer -- day to day to day." The Rays skipper was asked if he's had a chance to sufficiently evaluate Burroughs this spring. "No, he hasn't had a chance to play often enough. Plus, he was not having the best of springs with the bat. He knows that. I think maybe [his back has been] bothering him a little bit more than he wanted to put out early on. He just didn't look right. And we want to get him well before we make any kind of determination." ... Russell Branyan's back was feeling better; he took batting practice and made the trip to Bradenton, where he struck out in his only at-bat.

Coming up: The Rays travel to Sarasota to play the Reds on Wednesday in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Ed Smith Stadium. McClung will make his final start of the spring and he will be opposed by right-hander Aaron Harang.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.