Hanigan excited about rotation in Spring Training

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ryan Hanigan's 2013 season is one he'd like to forget given the number of injuries he incurred.

Those injuries limited the Rays' new catcher to 75 games and 66 starts for the Reds. Twice he spent time on the disabled list.

First came a strained left oblique (April 21-May 9) and then came a left hand injury (July 11-Aug. 8).

"I screwed up an oblique in camp, and I tried to take it into the season," Hanigan said. "I had to shut that down until I got that healthy. I came back and I felt OK for awhile, then I strained something in my hand. It was kind of awkward. I was using a bigger bat than the one I usually use and it slipped off my hand."

The hand concerned Hanigan most since the injury never seemed to fully heal last season.

Hanigan now says the injury is history.

"Hand feels great," Hanigan said. "That's what I'm super happy about. No problems at all. The main thing I was working on this offseason was to make sure [my hand felt better]. And I feel great."

Rays' fifth-starter competition down to four

Outlook: Odorizzi may have Opening Day rotation spot

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Enny Romero and Alex Colome were optioned to Minor League camp on Saturday, the Rays could have made the announcement that the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation is now down to four.

Still standing are right-handers Jake Odorizzi and Nathan Karns and left-handers Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos.

Rays manager Joe Maddon did not sound like they would be making a final decision any time soon, though.

"You look at each one individually," Maddon said. "Let's say Odorizzi. Here's a guy vying for a job and he's out there working on a new pitch. It's a beautiful thing. And now he's made some progress with that."

Maddon was referencing the changeup that Odorizzi has been working on under the watchful eye of Alex Cobb. The pitch has been such a success that it's been called "The Thing" by others.

Karns came to the Rays in a trade with the Nationals.

"Karns had a little bit of a setback the other day [general soreness]," Maddon said. "He came back and was throwing the ball well, kept the ball down. And Bedard had a nice outing his last time out.

"Bedard's velocity came up a little bit. Odorizzi's developing this other pitch. And Karns is just kind of interesting the way he throws the ball hard and down. That's what I've focused on with all three."

Maddon noted that "it's hard to really look at it as a performance race."

"You just have to look under the hood a little bit," Maddon said. "Who do you think is going to play the best in the Major Leagues this year? And you probably will make that particular call at that moment, and knowing that your Triple-A team is going to be pretty thick in regards to replacements.

"But if a guy gives up a couple of hits, walks a guy, guy bloops a ball in, I'm not really worried about it."

Ramos would likely return to the long-relief role if he does not come away the winner, but what happens if Ramos wins? Would Odorizzi become the de facto long man?

"More than likely you'd have [Odorizzi] start [at Triple-A Durham]," Maddon said. "There's certain guys you don't want to retard their development. Guys like Odorizzi, let's just say that pitch is coming along. You don't want to put him in the bullpen pitching sporadically. And when he comes out of the bullpen, he won't want to throw it anyway. So guys like that you definitely want to place back in Triple-A.

"Think about it the last couple of years. [Alex] Cobb goes back, gets sent back, 20 starts and Cobb becomes very good. And [Chris] Archer the same thing. Going back to Triple-A is not an awful thing either at the beginning of the year as you're starting to get things together. You're going to need help from those guys at some point."

Zobrist, Peralta, DeJesus dealing with minor soreness

Moore, Zobrist and Maddon talk about Rays' 6-1 win

TAMPA, Fla. -- Two stiff necks and a sore side have sidelined Ben Zobrist, Joel Peralta, and David DeJesus.

The good news is, none of the maladies are serious.

"They're all good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "There's nothing serious with any of them. I have not heard anything. If there was anything really bad, [head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield] would have called me by now. All three of them should be back in action early this week. I don't see anything horrible."

Zobrist (stiff neck) was a late scratch at second base Saturday. Peralta (stiff neck) got lifted early from his appearance Saturday, and DeJesus (right-side soreness) has not played since Tuesday.

Zobrist is tentatively scheduled to play Monday and, according to Maddon, "he could have played yesterday."

"He's not bad," Maddon said. "Peralta, when he reached for the ball [hit back at the mound], it wasn't a throw it was a reach that caused the moment. And Ronnie assured me yesterday that DeJesus was going to be fine by the beginning of this week, too."