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February 28, 2013

Pirates sloppy in loss to Rays

BRADENTON, Fla. — Kelly Johnson had a new vantage point for the Tampa Bay Rays’ 8-2 victory Wednesday over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Johnson started in left field for the Rays, his first game in the outfield since he was a rookie in 2005 with Atlanta. He didn’t get to catch any flyballs, although he had to chase down a double by Pedro Alvarez that flew over his head.

“I felt all right out there,” Johnson said. “I didn’t feel too much like a fish out of water or anything. It’s different, I’ll say that. It definitely breaks up the routine to go out there and see things from a different angle.”

After spending the past six seasons at second base, Johnson has to alter the way he goes after balls in the outfield.

“I’ve got to temper my aggressiveness,” he said. “It’s easy in the infield. The ball gets to you quicker and you’ve got to get ready just a little earlier to react. If you do that in the outfield, a lot of times you’ll run yourself into a bad route. I had to fight that urge and relax a little bit. I had to sit a half-second longer to see the ball and then react.”

Johnson should get ample playing time this season as a super utility player at second base, shortstop, first base and the outfield. Rays manager Joe Maddon likes guys who can handle multiple roles.

“This is something that is definitely going to help us,” Maddon said. “I want to believe it’s also going to be helpful to him career-wise. You can develop more employment security by being able to do more things.”

Luke Scott had an RBI double and a single and Jose Molina also had two of the Rays’ 12 hits.

The Pirates made three errors in the first two innings, which led to three unearned runs.

Right fielder Brad Hawpe let a bloop hit bounce past him, third baseman Pedro Alvarez flubbed a high popup and second baseman Neil Walker overthrew 6-foot-4 first baseman Garrett Jones. A wild pitch by A.J. Burnett allowed another run to score.

Burnett, set to make the first opening day start of his career, had a bumpy spring debut. He allowed four runs and three hits in two innings.

“We’ve got to work on our composure during spring training, too,” Burnett said. “Things happen and balls don’t always bounce your way. Sometimes, you’ve got to make plays and make pitches.”

Burnett did not use his best pitch, the curveball. Instead, he threw mostly fastballs away and changeups.

“He’s working on things, so he’s not worried about results,” catcher Michael McKenry said. “He’s trying to get his rhythm and timing. We were throwing every hitter pretty much the same. We’re trying to get his pitch count up.”

NOTES: Pirates C Russell Martin (sore right shoulder) sat out for the third day in a row. He was injured Sunday when he got a late start to his pregame warmups. “My arm never got loose,” said Martin, expected to return to action by this weekend. ... RHP Jameson Taillon will start Thursday against the Red Sox. It will be his final outing with the Pirates before leaving to join Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic. ... One day after he was struck on the left wrist by a batted ball, Rays LHP David Price said his arm feels fine. He is scheduled to start Sunday against the Minnesota Twins.

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