Outlook: Fuld looks to bounce back from wrist injury

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Sam Fuld went through an intense outfield workout involving a lot of running Thursday morning, and after coming out of it without any issues with his right hamstring, he appeared in a Minor League game.

"Feels pretty good," Fuld said after his morning workout.

"Everything went fine," Fuld said after he made four plate appearances, walking once, but did not play the field.

Fuld has been out since experiencing tightness in his right hamstring in a March 3 game. Given that much of what Fuld does on a baseball field is predicated by being able to use his legs, the Rays have taken a cautious approach with the outfielder.

Rays manager Joe Maddon seems optimistic about Fuld's progress, and the outfielder is expected back by Opening Day.

Rodney, Molina return to Rays after Classic final

Rays closer Rodney reflects on experience in Classic

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Fernando Rodney and Jose Molina returned to the Rays Thursday morning after participating in the World Baseball Classic, where Rodney's Dominican Republic team defeated Molina's Puerto Rico squad, 3-0, Tuesday night in the title game.

Rodney recorded the final out in all eight of the Dominican Republic's games -- all wins -- which were played over the course of 13 days.

His eight appearances and seven saves set Classic records. He allowed one hit and walked three, but did not allow a run and struck out eight batters in 7 1/3 innings, earning a spot on the All-World Baseball Classic team.

"We played like a family," Rodney said of his experience in the Classic. "Good communication. We bring energy to the field every day. We play baseball like you're supposed to. Play to win the championship, that's why we won the trophy."

Rodney said he wasn't surprised that his team did so well.

"The first exhibition game we played against the Phillies, I saw something different in the field, a lot of energy," Rodney said. "Guys playing together, making plays the way you're supposed to."

Rays manager Joe Maddon believes that Rodney's work in the Classic will help him get off to a good start, but he noted he was most concerned about the "back side" -- whether Rodney will have enough left physically and mentally to get through an entire season.

Rodney will make just two appearances for the remainder of the spring, on Wednesday and then March 30 -- three days before the Rays' April 2 opener against the Orioles.

"I'm ready to go right now for the season," Rodney said. "I feel good now. I feel good. Arm feels good. I feel ready mentally and physically."

While Maddon had concerns about Rodney being used too much, he had equal concerns about Molina being used too little. The Rays catcher played in two games and went hitless in three at-bats. Molina did not sound as if he considered his lack of playing time a problem.

"I did a lot of catching and blocking drills and all of that," Molina said. "I think the only part that I'm behind on a little bit is the hitting part."

Molina played in a Minor League game Thursday to get some at-bats. He said he will play in one of the Rays' split-squad games Friday and another Minor League game Saturday.

"Get as many at-bats as I can," Molina said.

Molina did not play much during the Classic because his brother, Yadier, started the bulk of Puerto Rico's games. Playing with his brother, along with his countrymen, made the experience special.

"I enjoyed that from top to bottom, and all the way to the end, I enjoyed it," Molina said.

As for bragging rights inside the Rays' clubhouse, Molina good-naturedly maintained that Rodney wouldn't be bragging too much since Puerto Rico did all the heavy lifting for the Dominican Republic.

"I think we made it easier for them," Molina said. "We beat Venezuela, we beat the United States, we beat Japan. The only team we couldn't beat was them. We made the road easy for them."

Rays not rushing decision on fifth starter

TB@BAL: Niemann strikes out three in 4 1/3 innings

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays will have to make a decision soon on who will be their fifth starter, but it is unlikely to happen before the end of camp.

Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez are the final two contenders for the spot, with Hernandez starting Thursday against the Blue Jays and Niemann scheduled to pitch Friday against the Orioles.

Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't sound as if he felt any pressure to make a decision yet.

"We really haven't had that conversation yet, and my thought is to just wait one more time [through the rotation]," Maddon said. "We haven't said, 'Listen, we have to make a decision by this next time out.' For me, I think we'll just continue to let it play. I think they've both been good."

Maddon thinks both have looked sharp, even though Niemann's velocity has been a half click slower than usual.

"Again, I know the velocity has been noted as a concern, but it's really not," Maddon said. "So they're both looking very good. We have some nice, difficult decisions to make."

According to Maddon, the final decision will be based on each of the pitchers' histories, as well as what they've done this spring.

"Both have been successful," Maddon said. "Right now, you're just trying to make your best determination about which one will give you the best chance to get off to a good start as a starter, and who folds well back into the 'pen. Honestly, it's a combination type of thing. We respect them both as having been veteran players who have had success.

"Of course, maybe Roberto a little bit more in the past. But again, I thought Jeffrey should have been the Rookie of the Year a couple of years ago [in 2009], so there's a lot of respect regarding both of those guys. So treat the decision in a manner where there's no haste. Let's play it all the way through and see what we think."