Crawford joins injured; Baldelli better, but not ready

On a day when one-third of the Rays starting outfield made progress in returning to the field, another outfielder was a late scratch from the starting lineup due to injury.

Published March 24, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - On a day when one-third of the Rays starting outfield made progress in returning to the field, another outfielder was a late scratch from the starting lineup due to injury.

With CF Rocco Baldelli already sidelined with right hamstring tightness, LF Carl Crawford was removed from the starting lineup before Friday night's 15-1 win over the Reds with left groin tightness. Jonny Gomes replaced Crawford in left, and took advantage, going 3-for-5 with a homer.

Crawford, who has had triples two of the past three nights, said his groin has bothered him for a few days.

"I've stretched it out a little bit," he said. "It feels like I've been doing nothing but running these last three or four days."

Meanwhile, Baldelli did his most baseball work since feeling the tightness Tuesday. He participated in a full round of batting practice, shagged fly balls in the outfield and did movement drills.

"It does feel better than it did yesterday, so I will continue to do all my baseball stuff like I did today," Baldelli said.

Manager Joe Maddon said he believes Baldelli will return Sunday or Monday, but the centerfielder said he was more concerned with playing April 2.

"I think I'll be ready to go by the first game of the season, that's the only thing I want to say," Baldelli said. "Whether it's Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I have no idea."

As for Crawford, he had even fewer answers.

"I'll have to see how it feels today," he said. "We'll have to see."

As for having both outfielders idled? "Maybe I'm a germ," Baldelli said.

NEAR BRAWL: The Rays nearly engaged in a brawl after Cincinnati reliever Wes Wilkerson threw two consecutive high-and-tight pitches to C Shawn Riggans immediately after Gomes' three-run homer in Tampa Bay's seven-run eighth inning.

Wilkerson, a minor-leaguer making his first major-league exhibition appearance, was ejected after the second pitch, which struck Riggans' bat and then his helmet. Riggans was originally awarded first base but was directed back to the batter's box.

"I was just happy to get out of the way. I don't think it was intentional," Riggans said. "Everybody gets a little caught up in the moment. The home run and 15 runs, even though it's spring training, it's got to upset you a little bit as a team."

Both dugouts and bullpens cleared, but no one crossed the foul lines as Maddon restrained his players and told them it was unintentional.

Gomes, who led the charge out of the dugout, initially saw it differently.

"It probably was an accident, but when something like that happens, there's no time for negotiating," Gomes said. "You've got to act on what you see. When they're throwing at my boy's head, it's a different deal."

Rays reliever Juan Salas did not retaliate in the top of the ninth.

"You don't retaliate over situations like that," Maddon said. "I truly believe that was an accident."

BLUE BLUES: The umpiring crew was reduced to two temporarily during the top of the seventh inning. Home plate umpire Marty Foster left after being hit in the head by a ball (and was taken to St. Anthony's hospital for tests). Umpire Eric Cooper called balls and strikes from behind the mound and got help from the players and coaches on fair/foul calls while third-base umpire Chad Fairchild was putting on gear to go behind the plate.

"It was kind of weird," Riggans said. "There was no one for me to complain to."

OTHER INJURY NEWS: LHP Jon Switzer was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis. ... Maddon said C Dioner Navarro came out of his first game, a three-inning effort Thursday, with no setbacks in his recovery from a left hamstring strain and, after being off Friday, will catch five innings today. ... C Josh Paul left the game after the third inning with a bruised right hand.

MISCELLANY: The Rays won their fifth consecutive spring game, tying a team record. ... LHP Scott Kazmir pitched seven innings in a Triple-A minor-league game at the Naimoli Complex, allowing five hits and four runs, two earned, striking out eight and walking two. He threw a spring-high 108 pitches, 73 of them strikes. ... RHP Seth McClung and RHP Brian Stokes will each pitch an inning in a Triple-A game today. ... First-base coach George Hendrick had left knee surgery and is expected to miss the next week to 10 days. Special instructor Dave Martinez will coach in his place.

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.