tampabay.com

Abdominal strain knocks Lugo out of opener

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 4, 2006


BALTIMORE - Julio Lugo didn't know exactly what happened. But he knew it didn't feel very good.

The Rays starting shortstop, leadoff hitter and on-field energizer had to leave Monday's opener in the third inning with what was diagnosed as an abdominal strain, and the Rays say they won't know until Wednesday if - or how long - he will be out.

"I felt something (while hitting pre-game) and I thought it was going to go away," Lugo said. "It pulled. It pulled hard on my last at-bat. We're going to treat it and see how it is."

"He didn't sound overly concerned," manager Joe Maddon said, "but when you get those little pulls in the side you always have to wonder, so we'll see what happens on Wednesday."

Of additional concern, Lugo's backup, Luis Ordaz , later left the game due to a bruised left knee and was replaced by Nick Green . Ordaz was limping and while an X-ray on Monday was negative, he will undergo an MRI exam today.

If Lugo is out for an extended period, the Rays would have to consider summoning top prospect B.J. Upton from Triple-A. If Lugo is okay and Ordaz is out, the Rays might instead add Russell Branyan to have an extra bat on the bench.

TAKING THE FIFTH: Jonny Gomes extended what he admits is an amazing personal streak: For the fifth straight season, his first hit was a home run.

It started in Class-A Bakersfield in 2002, when he went hitless in his first 26 at-bats and then went deep. He did it the next year at Double-A Orlando, the next two years at Triple-A Durham, and then he did it Monday at Camden Yards.

"It went from cool to a streak to unbelievable," Gomes said. "I don't know how it happens."

PITCHING IN: After considering other options, the Rays decided they will use their five starting pitchers in order, which means Doug Waechter will make his first appearance on Saturday in Toronto and Scott Kazmir will get an extra day's rest before his second start on Sunday. Because of today's off day they had been considering pushing Waechter back.

LONG INTRODUCTION: The Orioles put a different spin on the traditional opening day introductions, and it took a while.

The Rays were lined up between third and second base, then the Orioles ran in from centerfield on an orange carpet and lined up between first and second. From the time the first Ray, equipment manager Chris Westmoreland , was introduced until the last Oriole, it was more than 20 minutes on a damp afternoon with temperatures in the mid 60s.

The Orioles also used the weather to their advantage. They took batting practice in a light rain, but as soon as they were done it was decided the tarp had to go on the field. That meant the Rays couldn't hit on the field and instead had to use the indoor cages.

MISSING BILL: After working 30 years in the minor leagues before getting a big-league job, bench coach Bill Evers missed his first opening day because he was at home in Florida recovering from surgery to remove a benign tumor. The Rays put his No.20 jersey in their dugout. Evers is expected to rejoin the team next week.

FIRST-TIMERS: Relievers Jason Childers (a ball to Jay Gibbons in the fifth) and Ruddy Lugo (a ball to Luis Matos in the sixth) threw their first major-league pitches on Monday. Childers, who had his wife, parents, agent and others on hand, allowed two hits and one run in an inning. Lugo allowed three hits and two runs (including a Jeff Conine home run) in 11/3 innings. "I was just excited," Lugo said. "I wasn't nervous at all. Just excited."

MISCELLANY: About 850 fans watched the game on the video board at Tropicana Field and all got a ticket to the April 11 home game. ... It was the 30th opening day for TV broadcaster Dewayne Staats ; the 20th for PR chief Rick Vaughn . ... Maddon eliminated the traditional team pregame stretch, letting the players get ready on their own. ... Bucs fullback Mike Alstott was in the stands, a guest of catcher Toby Hall . ... Tampa native Chris Ray got his first major-league save. ... The Orioles won their sixth straight opener.