Big bats deliver for Rays in 11-2 win over Marlins

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP)—When the Tampa Bay Rays get their big-name bats going, they can score runs in a hurry.

Johnny Damon(notes), Evan Longoria(notes) and Manny Ramirez(notes) each had two hits Tuesday as Tampa Bay cruised to an 11-2 victory over the Florida Marlins.

Ramirez and B.J. Upton(notes) both hit their second home run of the spring for the Rays. Longoria and Ramirez each had three RBIs.

“It’s fun to see the lineup come together and start playing well,” Longoria said.

Tampa Bay jumped out to a 7-1 lead by scoring five times in the second. Damon singled, Longoria doubled and Ramirez—who homered in the first inning— followed with another single, each driving in a run.

“Manny’s scaring me a little bit. He’s swinging a little too good right now,” Damon said. “It’s great to see, and it’s especially great to see when you’re on base because you know when he’s hitting, you’re scoring runs.”

Along with leadoff batter Ben Zobrist(notes), the Rays’ top four hitters went 7 for 10.

“That’s probably the best combined offense, maybe a week’s worth of our offense, to this point,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Real crispy all the way through. Manny obviously looked really good.”

Before the game, Maddon announced that lefty ace David Price(notes) would be the team’s opening-day starter.

“It’s the first game of the year, you want to start off with a win, you want to be 1-0 after that first day as a team,” Price said. “I feel like it is a pretty big responsibility and it’s just what (Maddon) talks about. Getting out to a quick start. That starts with the first game.”

Price was the AL Cy Young Award runner-up last season after going 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA.

“David definitely deserves that opportunity,” Maddon said. “Based on the year he had last year, starting the All-Star game, it’s just the right thing to do.”

Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson(notes), working on a 40-pitch limit, battled through illness and was hampered by a loose flap of skin on a finger of his pitching hand. He allowed one run in 1 2-3 innings.

Florida lost for the eighth consecutive time. Marlins starter Sean West(notes) gave up six hits and seven runs, but only two were earned due to a pair of errors in the five-run second inning.

West started in place of Anibal Sanchez(notes), who skipped his turn while nursing a bruised right shin.

“I saw myself today make some really good pitches to some really good hitters,” West said. “I took a lot out of that.”

Florida center fielder Dewayne Wise(notes) led off the game with a home run.

NOTES: The Rays announced that, at the request of Major League Baseball, the 2011 regular-season ground rules pertaining to catwalks at Tropicana Field will revert to the language that was used during 2010 regular season. The ground rules were changed before last year’s AL division series.

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