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Rays sluggers not afraid to think pink
By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 14, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - More than a half-dozen Devil Rays will swing pink bats today as part of baseball's Mother's Day effort to raise awareness and funding to fight breast cancer.
While players noted the seriousness of the effort - "It's obviously a good cause," Greg Norton said - they also had some fun with the concept.
"I'm not afraid to swing a pink bat," Travis Lee said. "That's what mine feels like right now anyway."
Manager Joe Maddon said: "Real men hit with pink."
The bats, as well as special pink lineup cards and home plates, will be signed and auctioned at a later date to raise funds for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
MLB approved use of the pink bats just for today, but some Rays said they may not want to give them up.
"If I hit a home run with that pink bat, I'm using it the whole year," leftfielder Carl Crawford said.
Other Rays expected to be in the pink include Jonny Gomes, Toby Hall, Damon Hollins and Tomas Perez.
JONNY A GO: Gomes returned to rightfield Saturday for the first time since April 28, and the fifth time this season, and said his sore right shoulder has improved enough that he can play there on a somewhat-regular basis.
Gomes has been receiving daily treatment and said he felt much better on the recent road trip. "I think I'm good now," he said.
Using Gomes in rightfield rather than at DH gives Maddon more flexibility in making his lineups because he can rotate several players into the DH slot.
"I don't want (Gomes) out there every day, but three or four times a week that will really help us," he said.
Gomes got to 13 homers in 36 games, quicker than any previous Ray; Jose Canseco did it in 39 games in 1999. Gomes also hit the first homer off Roy Halladay since teammate Travis Lee did so on April 9.
READY RUDDY: Rookie Ruddy Lugo continues to make a solid push for the eighth-inning setup job, having posted back-to-back scoreless outings and an impressive 2.55 ERA over his last seven appearances.
He went into play Saturday tied with Pittsburgh's Solomon Torres for the major-league high with 23 relief innings and has allowed only a .229 opponents average.
"He's making a strong bid for that spot," Maddon said.
Shortstop Julio Lugo said he is impressed with how his younger brother has responded.
"I'm not surprised that he has done well, but I am surprised how he has handled the situation already," Julio Lugo said. "It's pretty special. He can handle pressure. He's not going to give it up and then be pouting the next day."
MEDICAL REPORT: RHP Seth McClung skipped his usual day-after running session due to a nasty bump on the inside of his left knee Saturday. But he said there were no other issues from being hit by Alex Rios' one-hopper in the seventh inning Friday. "No biggie," he said. "I'll be all right." ... Maddon said outfielder Rocco Baldelli, out since March with a left hamstring strain, felt good after playing three innings in an extended spring training game Friday and could play again Tuesday and Thursday. ... Maddon said the Rays medical staff thinks veteran reliever Dan Miceli's "fragmented shoulder" can be rehabbed without surgery, though there is no timetable.
HISTORICAL TOUCH: Largo resident Bill Kinnamon, the umpire behind the plate when Roger Maris hit his 61st homer in 1961, celebrated his 87th birthday by taking the field with the umpiring crew.
MINOR MATTERS: Lefty Chris Seddon retired his first 12 hitters at Triple-A Durham on Friday, but he lost again and is 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA over his last three starts. ... B.J. Upton leads the Triple-A International League with 17 steals.
MISCELLANY: Doug Waechter will be used in middle relief until returning to the rotation May 20 against the Marlins. ... Ty Wigginton, in a 4-for-23 skid, got Saturday off. ... The Rays have scored two runs on balks in their last three games; the rest of the teams in the majors have scored five. ... FSN Florida's Inside the Devil Rays package on Crawford will debut at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. ... There is no TV coverage of today's game.