Souza makes first Grapefruit appearance

Souza makes first Grapefruit appearance

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Steven Souza Jr., started in right field for the Rays in their 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday, making his first appearance of the spring.

"It was awesome [to get back out there]," Souza said. "Just being able to compete like that was fun. I was a little excited as you can tell to be on the field. I just wanted to get in there and swing. Really test it out in a high-adrenaline environment. I'm really happy how everything turned out."

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Souza has been slowed by a left intercostal strain. He batted second on Wednesday and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a flyout to center field.

"[Blue Jays starter J.A.] Happ just nailed me with three midseason form sequences," Souza said. "I just wanted to swing. So he set me down. As far as the swings, I felt like everything was pretty close."

Souza felt a twinge in the intercostal area of his left side while taking batting practice prior to the official opening of Spring Training. The training staff has prescribed a cautious approach, which appears to have paid off.

"He will definitely be caught up for Opening Day," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Assuming no injury, he will be fine."

Worth noting

Steve Pearce was scheduled to play first base on Wednesday but was a late scratch due to right-calf tightness.

Cash is looking forward to having Pearce's versatility on this year's roster.

"He's going to play a huge role because he does so many things," Cash said. "Obviously we like his bat, but being able to plug him in and play solid defense at multiple positions is such an addition to have. So when guys need a spell -- he's going to start plenty of games, just might not start five games in a row at one position. He might be starting five games in a row at different positions."

In addition to defensive flexibility, Pearce will give the Rays flexibility in their batting order.

"We haven't done the batting order yet, but he's a guy I think will be hitting somewhere in the middle of the lineup," Cash said.

• Veteran left-hander Jonny Venters threw his first bullpen since having his third Tommy John surgery in 2014.

"It's definitely good to get out there," Venters said. "It's been awhile."

The Rays signed Venters on March 11. He has not pitched in a game at any level since pitching for the Braves in the 2012 National League Wild Card Game. Throwing a first bullpen session back from surgery is an experience with which Venters is familiar.

"Unfortunately, yeah, I've done it before," Venters said. "Yesterday was pretty good. I felt pretty comfortable out there aside from the nerves and stuff."

Past experience -- Tommy John surgeries in 2005 and 2013 -- also helps Venters know what to expect in the coming months.

"I think we just build off yesterday and increase the load off the mound," Venters said. "Hopefully I think we'll be on the mound a couple of times a week, add that stress into it and try to build up. Gradually start throwing some breaking balls and changes off the mound and hopefully throw to some hitters after that."

• New shortstop Brad Miller made his third error of the spring. He has only played in four games. All of the errors have been throwing errors to first base. Cash said he is not concerned at this juncture.

"It's early, early," Cash said. "Just let him play. He'll be just fine."

• Willy Adames played the final three innings at shortstop for the Rays. The highly touted prospect, who was acquired from Detroit in the 2014 David Price trade, struck out and had an assist in the field. Cash said he'd like to see him play some more for the Rays this spring.

• Catching prospect Justin O'Conner, who has a herniated disc, was optioned to Minor League camp.

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