March 06, 2015

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) Jake Odorizzi can relax this spring training and go about the business of preparing for the season without worrying about competing for a job in Tampa Bay's pitching rotation.

The 24-year-old is the Rays' projected No. 4 starter following a solid rookie year in 2014. That allows himself to concentrate on improving various aspects of his game rather than focus on results in games.

Especially early in camp.

''You'd like to be in a spot where eventually you can get to a point in your career where you're using spring training to get ready for the season. Not everybody can do that, but Jake's put himself in a position where he can,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said Friday after Odorizzi pitched one scoreless innings in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

''I can't speak for him. I would guess it's got to be a little easier,'' Cash added. ''He can pace himself a little bit and get his work in.''

Tommy Milone doesn't have as much latitude with the Twins.

The left-hander looked good in his first outing since having surgery in December to remove a benign tumor from his neck, however he's only beginning his bid to earn the fifth spot in Minnesota's rotation.

''All I was trying to do was go out there and attack the zone,'' Milone said after allowing one hit in two scoreless innings.

''Coming off last year, it's nice be successful, especially right out of the gate,'' the pitcher added. ''It's something to build on.''

Milone struggled last season after acquired July 31 from Oakland in a trade that sent outfielder Sam Fuld to the Athletics. He was bothered by a sore neck the second half of the year, and a benign tumor was discovered after the season.

''He had a nice first day ... a nice first start for him,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

''It feels good to get out there and have a fresh start,'' said Milone, who embraces the competition for a job. ''Realistically, almost all the spring trainings I've been in I've had to fight for a spot,'' the left-hander said. ''So, it's nothing different.''

Max Kepler had a RBI double for the Twins off Matt Andriese, one of four candidates for an open spot in Tampa Bay's rotation.

CUTS FOR CHARITY

Before the game, more than 30 Rays players, coaches and front office staff shaved their heads in support of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation's ''Cut for a Cure'' effort. It's the fourth straight year the club has participated to pay tribute to children fighting cancer.

STARTING TIME

Twins: Milone was 6-4 with a 4.19 ERA in 22 outings, including 21 starts, for the A's and Twins last season. He went 0-1 with a 7.06 ERA in six appearances (five starts) after the trade. ''Obviously, I wanted to come in here last year and be the pitcher they wanted me to be and it didn't work out that way. So to come in, especially this first outing, and put ups some zeroes ... felt good.''

Rays: Odorizzi went 11-13 with a 4.13 ERA in 31 starts last season, when led all major league rookies with 174 strikeouts. He walked two of the seven batters he faced Friday, but escaped without allowing a run when he got Kenys Vargas to ground into an inning-ending double play.

FIRST RBI

Tampa Bay's Steven Souza, obtained from Washington in the three-way trade that sent Wil Myers to San Diego this winter, had a RBI single off Logan Darnell in the fourth inning.

UP NEXT

Twins: Right-hander Phil Hughes will make his first spring start against Boston in Fort Myers. Clay Buchholz gets the start for the Red Sox.

Rays: Right-hander Alex Cobb, who's already been named opening day starter, makes his spring debut against Pittsburgh in Bradenton. A.J. Burnett starts for the Pirates.

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