Davis in battle for Rays' final rotation spot

Davis in battle for Rays' final rotation spot

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- With the Rays poised to make a final decision on the odd man out of their starting rotation, right-hander Wade Davis didn't do much to help his cause Sunday afternoon.

Davis gave up four runs on seven hits, along with three walks and two homers, while striking out two in 4 2/3 innings of the Rays' 5-1 loss to the Marlins. Davis said after that he fell behind in the count far too much, got tired toward the end, and lost his fastball after a strong first inning. Manager Joe Maddon said there was nothing wrong with Davis physically, but the way his fastball velocity dipped was concerning.

Maddon reiterated that deciding on his rotation, which essentially means picking Davis or Jeff Niemann and sending the other to the bullpen, still is not an easy decision.

"We did make mention from the beginning that it wasn't about Spring Training performance," Maddon said. "It's not about that. It's not about a high ERA or having a couple bad Spring Training outings. I'd like to think we're not as superficial as that. We told all the candidates from the beginning that was not going to be the criteria utilized in making this decision."

Davis admitted he would have "loved to have done better" this spring, but he said he feels better this year at this point than he has in the past. The primary issue with Davis is not his mechanics or his stuff -- he's on par with all the Rays' starters in those departments, Maddon said -- but rather the mental side of his approach.

"He really reaches almost an elite status as a Major League pitcher. ... My goodness, the package there is wonderful," Maddon said. "How do you draw it out of him? How do you get a guy to think properly in an effort to draw those abilities out?"

Maddon said the pitcher who doesn't make the rotation will likely start the season as a long reliever, and could move to a more high-leverage role if he proves he can handle it. If that turns out to be Davis, he said he'll take it in stride.

"I'll go down there and kick [butt], too," Davis said. "It don't matter to me."