PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Matt Garza looked good and felt even better.
After two exhibition outings, including three scoreless innings Monday in Tampa Bay's 4-3 victory over a Pittsburgh Pirates split-squad, the Rays right-hander is happy about the way he's pitching this spring.Garza won 11 games two years ago in his first full season in the majors and was the MVP of the 2008 AL championship series while helping the Rays make a surprising run to the World Series.The 26-year-old took a step back in 2009, going 8-12 with a 3.95 ERA.Garza threw mostly fastballs in his spring debut last week, not wanting to show much in a two-inning stint against AL East rival Baltimore. He worked on his breaking ball more while giving up three hits, striking out five and walking none against Pittsburgh."We don't play these guys all year, so I could use it," said Garza, who allowed singles to Lastings Milledge, Jose Tabata and Ramon Vazquez. "I'll probably use it more next week against the Marlins because we don't play them until May or June."After setting career bests with 32 starts, 203 innings and 189 strikeouts last season, Garza is striving to be more consistent in 2010. He's 19-21 in two seasons with the Rays, who obtained him in a trade with Minnesota in November 2007."I felt good out there. I was able to locate, made good pitches when I needed to," he said. "The big thing I was excited about was no walks."Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was impressed, too."He looked really good I thought," Maddon said. "He's got so many weapons that he overthinks sometimes. I like a simple approach for him. Pound the (strike) zone and pitch to contact because we'll play defense behind him."Fernando Perez's two-out RBI single in the 10th gave Tampa Bay its fifth consecutive win. The Rays pushed across two runs in the seventh to tie it at 3, with Matt Joyce contributing an RBI double and Sean Rodriguez adding a run-scoring single.Perez's winning hit off Jeff Sues drove in pinch-runner Tim Beckham from second base. Joe Dillon began the 10th with a double.Pittsburgh grabbed a 3-1 lead on Brian Friday's two-run homer off Jeff Bennett in the seventh.
Pedro Alvarez drove in Pittsburgh's first run with an infield single off Lance Cormier in the fourth. He tripled off Bennett in the seventh, then scored on Friday's homer. ... Pirates starter Brad Lincoln gave up a first-inning sacrifice fly to Ben Zobrist. The right-hander allowed one run and two hits in two innings. ... The Rays were close to signing INF Hank Blalock, who hit 25 homers for Texas last season, to a minor league contract. "I anticipate it's going to be done relatively soon," Maddon said.