Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Manny Ramirez reacts after catching a...

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Manny Ramirez reacts after catching a fly ball during spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla. (Feb. 21, 2011) Credit: AP

Greetings, indeed, from Rays camp. It's good to mix it up a little bit, as long as the New York teams are relatively slow. And gosh, it can be easy to forget that the Rays are the defending AL East champions.

(By the way, remember my Grapefruit League grades from yesterday? I'm upgrading Port Charlotte from a D- to a C-. The Rays did a superb job renovating the complex. It looks much nicer now. But the town is still extremely dumpy.)

I picked the right day to come, by pure luck. The Rays had an intra-squad game, so I got to sit three rows behind home plate and watch as they worked on situational hitting (hit and runs, bunting) and baserunning (going from first to third on a single to left). Manny Ramirez pleased his new skipper Joe Maddon by going the other way and hitting a sacrifice fly to rightfield.

In spring training, and sometimes in teams' home clubhouses, the star players will be given two lockers next to each other. It's a status symbol, and it affords the players extra space for all of their junk.

But I think Manny has set a modern-day record here with the Rays. He has three and a half lockers. There's a row of three just for him in a corner of the clubhouse, and to his left (if he's standing in front of the locker) he gets to share another one with Felipe Lopez.

Johnny Damon, meanwhile, strolled in wearing a bright green T-shirt. "Really good!" he yelled, to no one in particular. "Whoo!" Damon hasn't changed much.

Look at the lineup Tampa Bay will field on Saturday in its Grapefruit League opener against Pittsburgh:

John Jaso C
Johnny Damon LF
Evan Longoria RF
Manny Ramirez DH
Ben Zobrist RF
B.J. Upton CF
Dan Johnson 1B
Sean Rodriguez 2B
Reid Brignac SS

David Price pitching.

I wrote over the winter that the Rays took a "significant step backwards" because of the many free agents they lost, and I stand by that. But I also wrote that I'd never underestimate them, and if they can somehow put together a bullpen - with veteran J.P. Howell expected back in May - then they have a real shot to contend for a playoff spot. 

I spoke with Damon, Upton, Price and Joe Maddon for my column for Saturday. It's all right, you can tell my competitors.

-- John Harper of the Daily News wonders whether Robinson Cano should replace Mark Teixeira as the Yankees' number three hitter. Kevin Long and Alex Rodriguez told Harper why that shouldn't happen, and I tend to agree with those guys. (By the way, you can make your own Yankees lineup right here.) At 31, Teixeira deserves the benefit of the doubt to bounce back from his worst offensive season since his rookie year, 2003.

-- Good column by Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press about Miguel Cabrera. Rosenberg correctly is cautious about criticizing Cabrera, since we don't know all the details and also since there is a language barrier. Yet as Rosenberg writes, "When you get down to it, Cabrera said exactly what he had to say, and nothing more."

-- Adrian Beltre will miss 10 to 14 days with a calf strain, Richard Durrett reports. Where would we be without Twitter?

-- Have a great day and night.

More MLB news

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access