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Diaz singles in a pair for walk-off win

Diaz singles in a pair for walk-off win

Diaz singles in a pair for walk-off win
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays infielder Jonathan Diaz hit a walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Rays, 5-4, on Wednesday afternoon and give Toronto its first win of the Grapefruit League season.

Diaz came to the plate with runners on second and third with one out and sent a pitch from right-hander Richard De Los Santos down the line in left field to score both baserunners. The come-from-behind victory overshadowed a rough debut by Toronto right-hander Octavio Dotel and an erratic start from Tampa Bay ace David Price.

Price retired the first four Blue Jays batters he faced, but ran into trouble midway through the second inning. Toronto outfielder Juan Rivera got things started with a double over the head of third baseman Felipe Lopez. The next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, hit a 1-1 offering over the wall in right field for his first home run of the spring.

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Price's woes on the mound continued, thanks in part to erratic control. He issued a walk to Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia after Encarnacion's homer and then allowed him to advance to second with an error on a pickoff move to first base. After another walk, Price threw a wild pitch, which allowed Arencibia to move to third, from where he would eventually score on a groundout.

Tampa Bay's ace was taken out following the second inning after throwing 44 pitches. He allowed three runs on two walks and two hits while striking out one.

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"I'm not pressing right now; I feel fantastic," Price said. "That ball [Encarnacion] hit out of the yard -- if I throw that same pitch again, he probably doesn't hit it out. He hit a very good pitch, and that's part of it."

Price's counterpart, right-hander Brandon Morrow, tossed three shutout innings for the Blue Jays while striking out four.

"He showed a real good changeup that might not have been a fixture in his repertoire a year ago," manager John Farrell said of Morrow, who went 10-7 with a 4.49 ERA in 2010. "So the feel for his changeup was very encouraging to see, to go along with the other stuff that we know is well above average."

Morrow pitched to Arencibia for the first time in his career. Morrow used veteran backup Jose Molina as his personal catcher last season, and while it's possible Farrell will continue that practice in 2011, he wants to make sure every angle is covered.

"It was just good to see him go out and make some pitch selections on his own," Farrell said. "Have some conversations between the innings and go out and execute a game plan. While there's a certain comfort zone there, you don't want to make it a security blanket for him, either."

Despite the early deficit, it didn't take long for Tampa Bay to get back into the game. The Rays cut the lead to two in the top of the fourth before posting a big inning in the sixth against Toronto's Octavio Dotel.

Shortstop Reid Brignac led off the frame with a single and advanced to third on a double by infielder Ben Zobrist. Both runners would come around to score on a two-run double off the bat of designated hitter Dan Johnson. Two batters later, Joe Inglett added an RBI single to make the score 4-3.

Both clubs were then held scoreless until Toronto's rally in the ninth.

Up next for the Blue Jays: Left-hander Brett Cecil will make his second appearance during the Grapefruit League season when the Blue Jays play host to the Pirates on Thursday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Cecil allowed one run on three hits while striking out one over two innings in his first start against the Tigers. Cecil likely will go three innings and will be followed by right-hander Scott Richmond, who is expected to throw two innings. Also scheduled to pitch are Robert Ray, Carlos Villanueva and Jon Rauch; Mike Hinckley and Wilfredo Ledezma will be available, if necessary.

Up next for the Rays: Right-hander James Shields will get the start when the Rays host the Yankees on Thursday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET. Shields has already made one appearance during the Grapefruit League season, allowing one home run during his one inning of work.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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