TB@BOS: Joyce clubs a three-run shot

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Matt Joyce fondly remembers the last time he was at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.

Sitting in the visitors' clubhouse before an exhibition game against Tampa Bay's Double-A affiliate, the Biscuits, Joyce talked about the 2005 NCAA Division II championship tournament.

Joyce, though he said he was 0-for-6 in the final game, was part of the champion Florida Southern Mocs.

"I remember running in from right field and jumping on the dogpile," Joyce said. "We played all the 'We Are the Champion' songs on the way home."

Archer deals scoreless outing in Rays' exhibition

Outlook: Archer hopes to build on K success of Minors

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Richie Shaffer's eighth-inning flyout brought home Luke Maile and lifted the Biscuits to a 6-5 exhibition win over their parent team, the Tampa Bay Rays, on Saturday.

Maile singled and went to third on Cameron Seitzer's double before Shaffer hit a long fly ball to right field. Maile easily scored.

Rays starter Chris Archer threw four scoreless innings in his final spring appearance. Archer gave up three hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He threw 34 of 52 pitches for strikes.
 
"I actually felt really good about his changeup by the time he left the game," manager Joe Maddon said. "That was kind of neat. He was really, really good."
 
Archer hadn't pitched in a game since March 19, when he gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. He threw a simulated game Monday when rain in Florida canceled his scheduled start.
 
"It helped [Saturday] getting here and taking a walk around the ballpark," Archer said. "I strolled around, people-watched and gathered my thoughts."

The Biscuits rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the sixth inning against pitchers who are going to be Biscuits. Three Montgomery pitchers played for Tampa Bay on Saturday.

They scored four times in the sixth, highlighted by Jeff Malm's two-run home run off Dylan Floro. Taylor Motter hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh for a game-tying homer off Jimmy Patterson.

Catcher Justin O'Conner was a highlight for the Rays, though he's scheduled to begin the season at Class A Advanced Charlotte. O'Conner hit three doubles and threw out two potential basestealers.

O'Conner, who turns 22 on Monday, was a first-round Draft pick in 2010 and hit .233 with 14 homers at Class A Bowling Green last year.
 
"I was just excited to have a chance to be out there," he said. "I was pretty nervous at the beginning, but once the game started, it's still baseball. I was able to relax and have fun."

The Rays begin the regular season Monday at home against Toronto. The Biscuits open the year at home Thursday vs. the Birmingham Barons.

Longoria, Jennings happy to return to Montgomery

BAL@TB: Longo discusses getting more work in Spring

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and center fielder Desmond Jennings, who both starred as Minor Leaguers for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, said they were excited to return to the city Saturday.

They were in the starting lineup for an exhibition game between the Rays and the Biscuits, Tampa Bay's Southern League affiliate.

"I had a lot of fun playing here," said Jennings, who is an Alabama native. "It was probably my best season playing when I was here."

Longoria and Jennings were Southern League Most Valuable Player Award winners in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

"This was probably where I made a lot of my fondest memories," Longoria said. "Of all the places I played in the Minors, we were taken care of the best here."

Longoria played a key role in Montgomery's 2006 Southern League championship -- capping his first season as a professional -- and spent the first four months of the '07 season with the Biscuits.

Longoria, whose home run in the 2011 regular-season finale clinched a playoff appearance for the Rays, also remembered a dramatic home run for Montgomery in 2006. He hit a game-ending home run that clinched a playoff series.

"Up to that point, that was probably the most exciting thing I had done -- from a personal standpoint -- in baseball," he said.

Maddon given key to Montgomery

Joe Maddon talks about 2014 Rays with Ron Darling

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, before an exhibition game against Double-A affiliate Montgomery, picked up his fourth key to a city.

Montgomery mayor Todd Strange presented it to him during a pregame event.

"I'm welcome in several cities," Maddon said.

He said Hazelton, Pa., and Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., have also presented him keys to their cities. Hazelton is his hometown.

"It's a gracious gesture on the part of a city," Maddon said, unsure of what exact benefits he can expect.

"I hope I can get out of a speeding ticket, at least," he joked. "I'm looking for some form of judiciary entitlement."

Worth noting

• Maddon said he was leaning toward having Jose Molina start at catcher on Opening Day over Ryan Hanigan.

He wasn't sure yet, but Opening Day starter David Price has been comfortable with Molina the last two years, while Hanigan is in his first year with the Rays.

"I don't mean to be vague," Maddon said. "I really don't know. I'm not trying to be coy about it."

• Relief pitcher Mark Lowe, an eight-year Major League veteran released Wednesday by the Rays, has signed a Minor League contract with the Cleveland Indians.

• Infielder Wilson Betemit will likely head to Triple-A Durham after he was dropped from Major League camp last week. The 32-year-old has more than eight years of Major League service.

"We really like him a lot," Maddon said.

• Left fielder David DeJesus left after two at-bats, though the rest of Tampa Bay's starting position players made three plate appearances.
 
He fouled a ball off his leg in his second at-bat, Maddon said, "but he's going to be fine."