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Rays Defeat Yankees, 3-1

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Jorge Posada (Charles Krupa/AP Photo)

Jorge Posada (Charles Krupa/AP Photo)

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) _ Bartolo Colon made another strong bid for a spot in the Yankees’ rotation, allowing one run over six innings in New York’s 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.

Colon is competing with Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Sergio Mitre for two openings behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes.

The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner gave up two hits and struck out five during his 64-pitch outing. In four exhibition starts, the burly right-hander has allowed four runs over 15 innings.

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 2 with a walk.

A-Rod had gotten a hit in each of his other 13 spring training games.

Tampa Bay fifth starter Jeremy Hellickson gave up three hits, walked one and struck out two in four scoreless innings. Kelly Shoppach tied it at 1 on a sixth-inning homer off Colon.

Dan Johnson put the Rays ahead 2-1 on a homer off promising Yankees left-hander Manny Banuelos in the seventh.

Hellickson, slowed early in camp by tightness in his right hamstring, hasn’t allowed a run in two of his three starts. He
developed a blister on the ring finger of his pitching hand during his second outing, but it didn’t bother him in throwing 49 pitches against the Yankees.

“Arm felt good. Hamstring felt really good and blister wasn’t a factor,” Hellickson said, reiterating that he expects to be ready to start the season in the rotation.

Colon hasn’t pitched in the majors since being released by the Chicago White Sox in September 2009 after going 3-6 with 4.19 ERA in 12 starts. He did pitch this past offseason in the Dominican winter league.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised from what I’ve seen from this guy,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s kind of reinvented himself. He can still throw to 93 (mph), but you’re not going to see that 97-98 we used to see in the seventh and eighth innings when we faced him. He’s being considered for one of the spots, absolutely.”

The Yankees’ long reliever could come from the back-of-the-rotation competition.

Nova is considered the front-runner for one rotation slot.

“That’s a good question,” general manager Brian Cashman said, smiling. “I’m not going to answer it. We haven’t made a final decision yet. We’ll have to make it soon.”

Mitre is scheduled to pitch against Baltimore on Tuesday. Garcia will pitch in a minor league game Thursday, which is an off day for the Yankees.

“Freddy is what he is,” Cashman said. “As long as he stays healthy, I know what he can do at the major league level.”

New York also continued experimenting with its lineup, having Brett Gardner bat first and placing Derek Jeter in the two-hole for the second consecutive game.

Gardner drew a walk to open the sixth, stole second and went to third on Jeter’s grounder. After Jorge Posada walked, Rodriguez made it 1-0 on an RBI grounder.

Rodriguez has driven in at least one run in each of his last eight games.

Cashman and Girardi talked about the opening-day lineup before the game.

“I think your best hitters should get the most at-bats,” Cashman said. “You have to put personalities into play. There’s the human element and what makes the most sense.”

NOTES: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera allowed one run and two hits over two innings in a minor league game. The right-hander, who said he will pitch again Wednesday, has not given up a run in three innings of major league exhibition games. … Posada, switching from catcher to DH this season, started at first base. … Yankees
INF Eric Chavez has spasms in his right calf and won’t play again until Friday. No tests were planned. … The Rays announced plans to donate $10,000 to benefit the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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