LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rays designated hitter Luke Scott has been in and out of the lineup this spring, battling a hamstring injury. He spent the last two seasons dealing with shoulder problems. But he was back, starting in right field Tuesday, and looked as though the time off hadn't hurt him at bit.
Scott had a walk, a double and a grand slam in the fourth to spark Tampa Bay to an 11-5 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Now that he's feeling better physically, he's optimistic he can produce at the plate this season.
"It's like being able to drive a car on four wheels instead of three. My whole life I've been able to do certain things with my body. My shoulder and my mechanics have worked a certain way. The last two years I haven't been able to do that," he said. "So that's a tremendous adjustment to make. Now that I've had a chance to heal and get back to my former self, it feels good to get back to where I used to be. It feels good to once again be able to control the bat head."
Said manager Joe Maddon: "He could be very big for us. He's been a good RBI guy. If we can get him out there more, we could see a lot of that. He's got that knack for driving in runs. He likes being out there in that moment. His swing is effortless now. It's not like he's trying to do too much. An easier swing with better results. I think in the past he was concerned about swinging and missing, because that would hurt."
Rodney letdown, not his arm concerns Maddon
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The work day starts before dawn in Spring Training, so it's not surprising that Joe Maddon dozed off before Monday night's World Baseball Classic semifinal game between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic ended.
"Then all of a sudden I wake up, it's the ninth inning and there he is, doing his thing. It was great to see that," the Rays manager said before Tuesday's 11-5 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium.
The player in question was Rays closer Fernando Rodney, who earned his sixth save of the tournament, sending the Dominican Republic into the championship game Tuesday night against Puerto Rico. "Rodney looks good. He looks great. I love the emotion of the Dominican team. There's nothing wrong with that. And anybody who talks negatively about that, they're missing the point," Maddon said.
He added that he wasn't worried about Rodney's workload, even though he pitched in each of the DR's first seven games. "It's not so much the amount of work. It's the intensity of the work. He's pitching midseason right now, man. He's got a playoff demeanor about him. So my concern is more emotional than physical, I think. I don't know how he's going to be. There's going to be a little bit of a letdown when this is all over after having amped up this much, this soon. So that's my concern. What's he going to be like emotionally when this is all over?" he explained.
Maddon sees Hellickson's fastball coming around
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson gave up three runs in the first two innings of Tuesday's 11-5 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium.
And that didn't bother Joe Maddon a bit. "I liked Helly a lot," the manager said. "I thought he was really good, because he pitched primarily with his fastball. There were a lot of balls hit on the ground. I thought it was by far his best outing of the spring."
Said Hellickson: "I felt good about it. The first inning was a little long, a little rough. But I settled down and made some pitches and felt good. I just made some better pitches when I was ahead. Those runs in the first came on 0-2 pitches. They were all right pitches. But they're good hitters, and I've got to be a little bit better. The last few starts, I've struggled a little bit with my command and getting ahead of guys. So I wanted to come out and establish that and throw strikes."
Hellickson settled down after that and didn't allow a run in his final four innings of work against a stacked Tigers lineup that included Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter.
His Grapefruit League ERA is 4.97 but Maddon doesn't really care about that, either. "Coming out of the Midwest with that wonderful Iowa tan that he possesses, he's always in the process of catching up a little bit. And it's worked for him in the past. To me, throwing his fastball where he wants to is the only thing I'm concerned about," the manager said. "I don't really over-analyze any of the Spring Training stuff other than is the delivery good? And throw your fastball for strikes. If you are, I'm happy."
• Joe Maddon laughed off David Price's decision to take himself out of a Minor League game in Port Charlotte, Fla., after one inning Monday because of heavy rain. "He was probably upset in the moment," the manager said of the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner. "It's just being part of the competitive Major League animal that we all are. So they've all kissed and made up. Everything's fine."
• Ben Zobrist started at shortstop Tuesday, his first Grapefruit League appearance since Team USA was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.
• Reliever Joel Peralta pitched one inning and had one strikeout and a pickoff in a game at the Minor League complex in Port Charlotte. He threw 10 pitches.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.