- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce homered to help the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 5-4 on Wednesday.

Cesar Ramos allowed two runs in 2 1-3 innings as he entered the competition for the fifth spot in the Rays’ pitching rotation. Newly acquired closer Grant Balfour gave up a pair of fourth-inning runs in his second spring appearance.

New York’s travel roster included few notable names after playing the previous night in Tampa, with Ichiro Suzuki getting a start in center field and Eduardo Nunez getting a look at second base as manager Joe Girardi continues to explore the infielder’s versatility.

“We’ve got to move him around because he’s in that competition, playing second and third. … “Defensively, you’ve got to be able to handle a couple of different spots,” Girardi said. “He’s played mostly at shortstop. But because of the situation we’re in, he’s got to be able to move around.”

Adam Warren, a candidate to be the Yankees‘ fifth starter, allowed one run and four hits in 2 1-3 innings.

Zobrist hit a leadoff homer in the first inning. Jennings and Joyce went deep in the fifth against Robert Coello, with Jennings delivering a three-run shot that made it 4-all and Joyce breaking the tie.

STARTING TIME

Yankees: Warren is trying to win a spot in the rotation appearing in 34 games last season, 32 in relief. He settled after giving up the homer to Zobrist and struck out two.

Rays: Ramos worked exclusively out of the bullpen for the Rays in 2013, and has joined Erick Bedard and Jake Odorizzi, who both also pitched Wednesday, in the competition for fill in for injured fifth starter Jeremy Hellickson, who is expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after undergoing elbow surgery.

Bedard allowed three hits, walked one and struck out two in three scoreless innings. Odorizzi yielded two hits during a scoreless ninth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (wrist) and outfielder Alfonso Soriano (flulike symptoms) are expected to return for Thursday’s game against the Phillies in Clearwater. Teixeira was limited to 15 games because of injury last season, batting .151 with three homers and 12 RBIs. He understandably is excited about getting back on the field this spring.

“When these guys are used to playing every day and you take their livelihood away from them for basically a year, it’s tough on them,” Girardi said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him out there. We really missed him last year.”

NEXT UP

Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start - and second spring appearance overall - on Thursday. He worked two scoreless innings against the Phillies in Tampa last Saturday and is looking forward to facing a lineup likely to include more front-line players than he encountered in his debut.

Story Continues →