Guerrieri faces Jays' best in first MLB spring start

Rays' No. 6 prospect handles himself well in first two frames before scuffling in third

Guerrieri faces Jays' best in first MLB spring start

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It was a classic, good news-bad news scenario that unfolded for Rays pitcher Taylor Guerrieri, as he made his first start at Major League Spring Training in Sunday's 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

The good news was that the 23-year-old right-hander, ranked the sixth-best prospect in the Rays' system, breezed through the first two innings against a lineup comprised almost entirely of Toronto Opening Day starters, retiring six straight Blue Jays -- including Josh Donaldson on a double-play grounder and Troy Tulowitzki on a swinging strike -- after yielding a leadoff single to Kevin Pillar.

The bad news? The third inning.

Top Prospects: Guerrieri, TB

After retiring Michael Saunders on a first-pitch grounder to short to open the frame, Guerrieri allowed back-to-back singles to Andy Burns and Ryan Goins. Following a Pillar fielder's choice, a Donaldson walk and a wild pitch, Jose Bautista dispatched a 1-2 fastball over the left-field wall to give the Blue Jays all the offense they would need -- while bringing an abrupt end to Guerrieri's afternoon.

Bautista's three-run blast

"First two innings, I felt really comfortable out there," said Guerrieri, who allowed four runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings with a strikeout and a walk. "I was throwing a lot of strikes, and I was getting some good swings -- from a pitcher's perspective -- and some weak contact as well, so I was happy to get out there and face their big boys and pump some strikes in there.

"I don't think anything in my demeanor changed [in the third inning]. I just didn't execute my pitches, and I think it showed."

While Guerrieri, selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 Draft, was scheduled to see action in Sunday's game, he learned late Saturday morning that he would draw the start after Matt Andreise was held back with abdominal tightness.

"I found out right before [Saturday morning batting practice]. I had time to prepare for it, get a good night's sleep and a good night's dinner, so I was well prepared," said Guerrieri, who went a combined 5-3 with a 1.85 ERA for Class A Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery last year, with 72 strikeouts in 78 innings.

In Spring Training, a starting assignment on the road typically ensures that a pitcher will face an abundance of regular-season starters -- a dynamic that was not lost on the young Rays hurler.

"I kind of knew who I was going to be facing, just because I'm at their place," Guerrieri said. "The ones who stood out to me were Bautista and Donaldson. ... Those are the guys you have to look out for in a lineup. Those are the power guys who can really make you pay for a mistake like I did today, but it was a good experience and I'm glad I got to experience it.

"I wish that third inning would have gone like the first two, but that's how it goes."

Michael Kolligian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.