ST. PETERSBURG -- Come mid-February, the Orioles will officially unveil an entirely different Spring Training experience.
"The stadium looks beautiful, right on schedule," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who, along with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, was part of a small contingent which made the short trip to Sarasota, Fla., prior to Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game to check out the multi-million dollar renovations.
Showalter, who last visited Ed Smith Stadium while working in the Cleveland Indians organization three years ago, said he was struck by the sketch of the finished product, which brings together an old Floridian look with state-of-the-art accommodations.
"It will be really neat for the fans," Showalter said. "Baseball functionality was the only thing I was really looking at. And it's going to function real well. Obviously, a lot of time and effort was put into it."
The group also toured the Minor League facility at the nearby Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park, and Showalter had high praise for the work put in by Orioles vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith, who has also had a hand in renovating Fenway Park and building Camden Yards.
The Orioles moved their Major League Spring Training operations from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to Sarasota last season, with the promise of a newly renovated facility, both at Ed Smith and Twin Lakes. Prior to last season, the organization had to work with a Minor League camp that was three hours away and considerably run down. The expectation now is the only part of the project that won't be completed by the time the players report is the renovation of the building where the Orioles' clubhouse and offices are located. That will start after Spring Training, and the O's will share a clubhouse with the Minor League operations for the time being, a small nuance given that the fields and the rest of the complex will be done.
"Is that the deciding factor on winning baseball games? No," Showalter said of having an updated facility that is also geographically convenient. "But it eliminates a lot of excuses, the logistics of rehab and everything."
Free tickets available for Wednesday's game
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are making 20,000 free tickets available to Wednesday night's regular-season home finale against the Orioles at Tropicana Field.
"You heard from a couple of our players about the crowd last night," said Rays team president Matt Silverman. "You can sense from that and other comments throughout the year that our players really thrive on the energy in the ballpark when it's full of our fans. We have a very good record in this ballpark on Saturday night concerts and other games where we're able to pack the place in."
Game time is 7:10 p.m. ET. Tickets will be distributed at all gates beginning at 4:45 p.m.
Silverman was asked if the Rays would have made the free tickets available if Evan Longoria and David Price had not made comments about the attendance after Monday night's game.
"It was something we had discussed, but I don't think we would have," Silverman said. "And it's not about the two players. It's about the sentiment expressed by the team throughout the year, the energy that they get from the fans when this place is full."
Tickets will be distributed one per person on a first-come, first-served basis and will be given away upon entry to the ballpark. Tickets may not be picked up in advance.
The complimentary tickets will be available in the Press Level, Baseline Box, Loge Box, Outfield, Upper Box and Upper Reserved sections.
Fans who have purchased tickets to Wednesday night's game in the aforementioned seating areas may exchange them at Guest Services for a Lower Box seat upon their arrival, based on availability.
"I'm not sure how the fans will react, but we're expecting a full house," Silverman said.
Contrary to a rumor that Price and Longoria were purchasing the tickets, the club will actually be footing the bill.
Lugo ejected after striking out looking
ST. PETERSBURG -- Orioles infielder Julio Lugo was ejected from Tuesday's game following his strikeout in the top of the fifth inning because of an animated display that home-plate umpire Joe West took offense to.
Lugo, who singled in his third-inning at-bat, went down looking on three pitches from Rays starter David Price, prompting him to spike his helmet into the ground and toss his batting glove to the side as he walked out to the field. But West motioned to Lugo that his night was over, granting Lugo -- a last-minute addition to the lineup with Brian Roberts' illness -- his first ejection of the season.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out of the visiting dugout to argue briefly with West as Lugo walked off. Brandon Snyder entered the game at first base, and the Orioles moved first baseman Ty Wigginton to second.
Lugo's strikeout ended the top of the fifth inning with the Orioles trailing, 3-0.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.