tampabay.com

Name change likely delayed until 2008

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 28, 2006


BOSTON - With a Wednesday Major League Baseball deadline looming, the Devil Rays have all but scrapped plans to change the team name, colors and uniforms for next season.

"It's now highly unlikely," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said at Fenway Park before Saturday's game. "The plan is to have it done by '08. It's highly unlikely we'd do it for '07."

Because there are so many complicated issues related to such a change, including uniforms, caps, logos, signage, apparel and merchandise, MLB requires notice by May31 of the preceding season.

Because the Rays realize the magnitude of making what Sternberg said would be a dramatic and "wholesale change," they want to spend more time on the project and be "able to explore it to its fullest."

Though team officials have looked at numerous potential names, color schemes, logos and names, they did not want their decision to be rushed by the deadline.

"To me, this was always a nonevent, but it became a story," Sternberg said. "We intend still to do it. "But we want to do it when we can address it with the proper brainpower to do it. It's going to happen."

SITTING STILL: Jonny Gomes was out of the lineup for the first time this season, a product of his 0-for-15, 11-strikeout record against Sox starter Curt Schilling .

Gomes understood but was disappointed.

"Every streak has to come to an end," he said. "Twelve of those at-bats were when I didn't know how to hit."

As manager Joe Maddon tries to maximize production based on matchups, Tampa Bay's lineup has taken on some different looks.

Saturday, Greg Norton made his first start in rightfield since 2001 and first in the outfield since 2002. And Maddon used starting catcher Toby Hall as his designated hitter (batting third) with backup Josh Paul behind the plate, taking the risk of losing the DH if Hall had to move behind the plate.

PITCHING AND CATCHING: One of the reasons Scott Kazmir might have looked out of rhythm in Friday's start was that he and Hall had differences over some pitch selections.

"At times, he got out of synch a little bit, but that's going to happen sometimes," said Hall, who caught nine of Kazmir's first 10 starts, when he was 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA.

Paul was behind the plate May 21, when Kazmir pitched eight scoreless innings against the Marlins, and might get Kazmir's next start on Thursday in Baltimore.

HOLIDAY BREAK: It seems illogical that the Rays and Orioles will spend Monday sitting in their hotel rooms and homes rather than playing a Memorial Day matinee at Camden Yards.

But there is a reason they aren't playing on the holiday: It's against the rules. Under the scheduling agreement between MLB and the players' union, teams are required to have a day off after traveling from the West Coast to the East as the Orioles will do after today's game in Anaheim.

Seven exceptions are allowed over the course of the season, but MLB did not seek one in this case. Plus, MLB vice president Katy Feeney said some teams have found the holiday to not be a good draw as fans have other plans or are traveling.

REHAB REPORT: Second baseman Jorge Cantu heads to Double-A Montgomery for a scheduled week-ong rehab after going 2-for-4 in an extended spring game on Saturday. Cantu, out since late April with a broken left foot, is scheduled to join the Biscuits on Monday. ... Outfielder Rocco Baldelli doubled in his first two at-bats Saturday in his fourth game at Triple-A Durham. He was 4-for-8 in his first three.

MISCELLANY: Carl Crawford was one of 10 players over the past 20 years to steal at least six bases over consecutive games, according to Stats Inc. ... Rays players had a variety of reactions watching on the clubhouse TV as former manager Lou Piniella provided commentary on Fox's telecast of the Mets-Marlins game. ... Russell Branyan used the time during Friday's rained out batting practice to shave his head. "He had way too much time on his hands," Maddon said. ... Friday's 8-4 loss snapped a string of 15 games decided by three runs or fewer.