Bedard pitches into 5th, Rays beat Blue Jays 6-3

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - Erik Bedard pitched into the fifth inning in his bid to win a spot in Tampa Bay’s rotation, helping the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3 on Saturday.

Bedard allowed three runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings. The left-hander is competing with Jake Odorizzi and Cesar Ramos to earn the fifth starter’s job as a fill-in for the injured Jeremy Hellickson, who’s recovering from elbow surgery and expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season.

The 35-year-old started 26 games and was 4-12 with a 4.59 ERA in 32 appearances with the Astros last season. Through four spring appearances, including two starts, he’s 2-1 with a 7.15 ERA.

Rays manager Joe Maddon reiterated that the decision on the No. 5 starter will not be based on statistics alone.

“That’s good because the ERA isn’t good now,” Bedard said.

“Every team’s different. Sometimes they look at that and some teams don’t,” the former Orioles and Mariners pitcher added. “They know it’s spring and you’re working on your stuff and just getting ready for the season.”

Mikie Mahtook hit a grand slam and Evan Longoria added a RBI single off Blue Jays starter Sean Nolin, who allowed five second-inning runs.

Four Tampa Bay relievers - Brandon Gomes, Grant Balfour, Joel Peralta and Brad Boxberger - combined to hold the Blue Jays hitless over the final 4 2-3 innings.

Kevin Pillar had a RBI triple off Bedard, then scored on the lefty’s wild pitch for a 2-0 Toronto lead in the second.

“The pitching was spectacular,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said, noting that Gomes, whose ERA remained at 0.00, was exceptionally sharp in 1 2-3 innings.

“He can’t throw any better than he is right now,” Maddon added.

STARTING TIME

Blue Jays: Nolin began with a perfect first, then walked three and allowed five hits during Tampa Bay’s five-run second. His spring training ERA ballooned from 4.91 to 11.81 after the 1 2-3 inning outing.

Rays: Maddon said Bedard, Odorizzi and Ramos likely will all have at least one more appearance before a decision is made on the fifth starter.

“They’re all three in the running,” Maddon said, declining to say who has the inside track.

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