Notes: Stokes embracing role in 'pen

Notes: Stokes embracing role in 'pen

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Brian Stokes went to camp contending for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, and the right-hander made a compelling case to earn the job.

But midway through Spring Training, the Devil Rays decided they wanted Stokes in the bullpen.

Stokes is comfortable with the move, and it has shown in his numbers. He is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in seven Grapefruit League appearances.

"If I can help the team a lot more by going to the bullpen, if that's what [manager Joe Maddon] feels, I'm all for it," said Stokes, noting he really hasn't had much of an adjustment to the new role. "I know I'm not starting anymore, but I still think about it. There are batters I have to face no matter what time of the ballgame I go in."

Maddon has spoken so highly of Stokes that he has even suggested he could become the team's closer.

"It feels good when a manager speaks that highly of you," Stokes said. "All I can do is go out there and compete. That's all talk. I've got to go out on the field and back it up."

Stokes just wants a crack at the Major Leagues.

"That's all I want," Stokes said. "Wherever he wants me, I'll do it -- laundry, anything."

Reyes back-to-back: In his effort to become a member of the Rays' bullpen, veteran right-hander Al Reyes pitched back-to-back days for the first time since the 2005 season, which concluded with Tommy John elbow surgery on Oct. 19, 2005.

"I feel good," Reyes said.

Reyes threw in a Minor League game Monday before pitching a scoreless sixth inning on Tuesday against the Blue Jays.

"[My] fastball felt [like it had] life today," Reyes said. "I am feeling great. Nothing negative."

Injury update: Catcher Dioner Navarro, who reported some soreness in his left hamstring after coming back from a strain, is day-to-day. He was not with the team on Tuesday as his 19-month son, Dioner Jr., was scheduled to have surgery to correct problems with his urethra and remaining kidney.

Center fielder Rocco Baldelli (sore right hamstring) will get some at-bats in a Minor League game on Wednesday. Left fielder Carl Crawford returned to the lineup to lead off in Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays. Catcher Josh Paul remains day-to-day with a bruised right hand.

Making decisions: Maddon and other team officials were scheduled to meet on Tuesday night to discuss the moves that needed to be made to reduce the roster from 37 players to 25, or at least get closer to the number at which they must break camp. Among the decisions that will be made is deciding on a No. 5 starter. Right now it's between right-hander Edwin Jackson and left-hander J.P. Howell.

Saturday ducats: The Rays' final exhibition game will be a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Mets at Tropicana Field on Saturday. Tickets for the game will be as follows: Kane's Club, $125; Whitney Bank Club, $85; Fieldside Box, Lower Infield Box and Lower Box, $20; Baseline Box and Loge Box, $17; Press Level, $15; and Outfield, $7. The upper deck will be closed.

Governor at the opener: Florida Gov. Charlie Christ will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Rays' home opener against the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field on April 6 at 7:10 p.m. ET.

The evening will be especially for the new govenor since he lives in St. Petersburg.

"To throw out the first pitch at a Major League game is, of course, very exciting for me, but even more so when it is the first game of the season at the ballpark in my hometown," Christ said. "The spotlight, however, should remain on these great, physically fit athletes that our state is known for and who serve as shining examples of the importance of fitness and nutrition."

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker will catch the ceremonial first pitch from Christ.

"What could be more appropriate than having St. Petersburg's first governor back home to throw out the first pitch," Baker said.

Crist was born in Altoona, Penn., but was raised in St. Petersburg and is a graduate of St. Petersburg High School. He served as general counsel for the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues in St. Petersburg from 1982-87.

Here's a look at who has thrown out the previous first pitches at Rays home openers.

1998 - Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Monte Irvin and Al Lopez
1999 - Larry Doby
2000 - Wade Boggs
2001 - St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer
2002 - U.S. Army General Tommy Franks
2003 - Jon Gruden and Rich McKay
2004 - Winky Wright, World Junior Middleweight Champion
2005 - Michael Andretti
2006 - Al Lopez Jr., Al Lopez III, Al Lopez IV

Up next: The Rays will travel to Clearwater on Wednesday afternoon for a 1:05 contest against the Phillies. Left-hander Scott Kazmir will make his final start of the spring before starting against the Yankees in the Rays' opener on Monday at Yankee Stadium. Right-hander Brett Myers will start for the Phillies.

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