Rays C Navarro hurts leg during 6-2 loss to Twins

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) — Francisco Liriano outpitched Tampa Bay's David Price and the Minnesota Twins went on to a 6-2 exhibition victory Saturday that left the Rays grateful the outcome wasn't worse.

Price gave up six straight hits in a four-run inning and 11 hits overall, but at least he left the field standing.

The same could not be said about Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who was taken off on a cart after a home-plate collision with Jacque Jones. The Rays feared Navarro's left leg had been broken, but X-rays were negative. His injury is a nerve contusion.

"We're going to take a couple days to evaluate it but it should not interfere with opening day," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operation. "It's a very fortunate outcome. It shouldn't affect him long-term."

Navarro's injury came just hours after confirmation that Rays relief pitcher J.P. Howell will miss the start of the regular season while he rehabilitates his left shoulder.

Liriano, trying to nail down a spot in the Twins' rotation, struck out four in three shutout innings.

"I was trying not to throw too many (sliders)," said the 26-year-old left-hander. "I think my breaking pitch is a lot better than my fastball; I can throw it at anytime, any count. So I'm working on locating my fastball."

Price threw strikes, but many of them were turned into line drives.

"They hit me all over the yard today," said Price, who gave up two hits each to Jones, Ben Revere, Orlando Hudson and Alexi Casilla.

Jones, who was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Gabe Kapler in the second inning, doubled off Price in the fourth. When Brendan Harris followed with a single, Kapler threw out Jones at the plate again.

After applying the tag this time, Navarro didn't get up.

"I was worried about myself first. I kind of banged up my knee," Jones said. "When I saw that he didn't get up, then I kind of sensed that something was wrong."

Something was wrong, but not as wrong as the Rays had feared.

Their fears about Howell were confirmed, however. The left-handed reliever will not pitch at all in spring training and won't even throw on the side for at least two weeks while trying to build strength in his left shoulder.

"I need to be down. I need some time. I have to be honest and it's tough to do that," Howell said. "Every year you think there's something up the first couple times you start throwing. This time it continued and I said, 'All right, maybe I need to strengthen my arm.'"

Manager Joe Maddon said it is unlikely Howell will pitch for the Rays in April.

"There's no sugar-coating any of that," Maddon said. "That's a tough one to replace; I will not deny that. I don't know exactly how we're going to do it yet because he's that big a part of what we're doing here."

NOTES: Injured Twins closer Joe Nathan will be testing his arm soon, but manager Ron Gardenhire insisted he does not know when or where. "He could do it tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon, he could do it at a park down the road from the ballpark, I just don't know, and I don't want you to know because you'll be there," Gardenhire said "We don't want a media circus with this. We want to go out and see what happens and we'll let you know as soon as he goes out and plays catch." Nathan has a torn ligament in his right elbow. ... Liriano said he is open to the idea of closing for the Twins, but Gardenhire ruled it out. ... Michael Cuddyer, making a rare appearance in center field, took away at least one Rays run by running down a Kapler line drive in the first inning. ... Sean Rodriguez had two of Tampa Bay's nine hits and is batting .405 in 37 at-bats.