PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) – The respite is over for Tampa Bay’s top pitchers. It’s time to face hitters.

Designated opening-day starter James Shields threw 22 pitches in his spring debut Saturday, and reliever Grant Balfour is confident he’ll be fine after being hit in the upper right forearm by a batted ball during the Rays’ 15-7 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Shields struck out two while allowing one run and two hits in two innings.

Balfour hardly flinched after Nick Green’s comebacker struck him, and the right-hander picked up the ball and threw to first base to end the fourth inning.

“It’s not fun to see that, but it hit the meaty part of the arm,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Balfour said his forearm was bruised, but would be OK. He and Maddon would not speculate on whether it might delay his next outing.

“It’ll be fine. … I’ve been playing long enough to know that’s part of the game,” said Balfour, who allowed one hit and walked one in his only inning of work. “Any time a ball comes back at you like that, it could be a lot worse.”

Jon Weber hit a three-run double and later added a three-run homer to finish with a Rays exhibition game record six RBIs. The Red Sox had 10 hits to Tampa Bay’s seven, but committed six errors, two of them by shortstop Argenis Diaz.

“We like putting up crooked numbers, but not in the error column,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “Any time you have an infield that’s quick or choppy and you don’t move your feet, we did a lot of that today. One inning we gave them seven outs.”

With the Rays playing deep into October for the first time last season and spring training starting early because of the World Baseball Classic, Maddon wants to ensure the club’s front-line pitchers won’t be overworked during the exhibition schedule.

“Joe did a good job of resting us, and here we are ready to go,” Shields said, describing his outing as “nice and efficient.”

The right-hander allowed a two-out single to Chris Carter in the first and a leadoff double to Jeff Bailey in the second.

In his third appearance this spring, Boston starter Tim Wakefield allowed four runs, two hits, walked one and struck out three in three innings.

Devern Hansack gave up Weber’s three-run double in the sixth, and Dustin Richardson yielded Weber’s three-run homer in the eighth. George Kottaras and Jonathan Van Every homered for Boston off Jason Hammel.

Francona wasn’t concerned about Wakefield’s numbers.

“I think he got 50 or 51 pitches. I think as he gets deeper, we’re seeing him get a little bit stronger. … As he gets stronger, you’re going to see that ball have a little bit more movement,” the manager said.


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