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Bedard struggles in final start before rotation decision

Loney 2-for-2, but Rays offense can't get going against Blue Jays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Rays left-hander Erik Bedard and Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez each entered Friday's game with something to prove.

Sanchez, Toronto's top prospect, came out on top in his first start -- but likely his last appearance -- of an excellent first trip to Major League Spring Training. The 21-year-old fired 5 1/3 scoreless innings as the Blue Jays went on to win, 5-0, at Charlotte Sports Park.

Making his final audition for the fifth spot in the Rays' rotation, Bedard gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk, while striking out four on 94 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. Rays manager Joe Maddon said entering the game that Bedard was very much in the thick of the competition for that final starting job, and a final decision is expected Saturday.

Bedard held the Blue Jays to just one hit through the first two innings before Toronto broke through in the third. Four straight singles from Chris Getz, Anthony Gose, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus, along with a throwing error by center fielder Desmond Jennings, put the Blue Jays ahead, 3-0, before Bedard got out of the inning.

Lawrie got to Bedard again in the fourth, lofting a solo homer into the wind and, eventually, the Blue Jays' bullpen in left field to put Toronto up, 4-0. The third baseman followed that with a sac fly in the seventh inning, capping a 2-for-3 day with three RBIs.

"I felt pretty good," Bedard said. "I was throwing my breaking ball for strikes whenever, and I was also throwing my changeup and fastball," Bedard said. "So I thought it was better than my other outing."

Sanchez, meanwhile, rid himself of two baserunners in the first two innings by inducing a pair of double-play grounders from Evan Longoria and Wil Myers, and he got out of a jam in the fifth when catcher Curt Casali bounced into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play. Sanchez didn't give up a run in four appearances this spring, allowing only nine hits and six walks, while striking out eight over 12 1/3 innings.

"It was extremely impressive, there's no doubt about it," Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker said. "[Sanchez] came out throwing strikes. He was composed. Faced their lineup, I'm sure close to their Opening Day lineup, faced all their big hitters and certainly handled them pretty well. Pounded the zone, got ahead of the hitters, didn't work from behind in the count, showed an explosive fastball and like I said, a lot of poise and a lot of ground-ball outs."

Up next: Maddon has said he will reveal Tampa Bay's fifth starter on Saturday, bringing an official end to the competition between Bedard, Cesar Ramos and Jake Odorizzi. Meanwhile, the Rays will welcome the Orioles to Charlotte Sports Park for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Right-hander Alex Cobb will get the start, and he'll be followed by setup men Joel Peralta and Jake McGee. Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke, battling for the final spots in the Rays' bullpen, are also slated to pitch. Baltimore is scheduled to start right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays, Erik Bedard