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Norton's history repeats itself: He'll start season on DL
Trying to lighten the mood during a frustrating moment Saturday, Rays 1B/DH Greg Norton jokingly asked executive vice president Andrew Friedman if he could have the next-to-last day of the exhibition schedule off next year.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published April 1, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Trying to lighten the mood during a frustrating moment Saturday, Rays 1B/DH Greg Norton jokingly asked executive vice president Andrew Friedman if he could have the next-to-last day of the exhibition schedule off next year.
"... Off where I just don't get out of bed," Norton said.
For the second straight year, an injury on that very day of spring training will land Norton on the disabled list to start the season.
Norton will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Monday to repair a torn meniscus, an injury he believes he first noticed during a workout Thursday and regressed Friday to the point where he had to remove himself from the game early. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.
Last spring, he strained his left hamstring in the next-to-last game after having hit .396 as a non-roster invitee. He didn't play his first major-league game until April 27.
"It's kind of deja vu," said Norton, who hit a career-high .296 with 17 homers and 45 RBIs in 2006. "Last year the same thing happened. I was limping out of the dugout to watch five innings before treatment at the Trop while the team took off."
The Rays are expected to replace Norton with 1B Carlos Pena, a non-roster invitee who was reassigned to minor-league camp Friday. Pena was in the Rays' clubhouse Saturday and also had a locker there.
To make room for Pena on the 40-man roster, the Rays will likely move LHP Jon Switzer from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.
FIELD RATES WELL: They've practiced here this week for pregame workouts, but Saturday marked the first time the Rays tested Tropicana Field's newest FieldTurf surface in a game situation.
The field is supposed to play more like real grass, which should assist infielders used to untrue bounces and also help hitters laying down bunts.
"Those extended plays are always going to be tough," Rays shortstop Ben Zobrist said. "But those regular ground balls, when you see it hit the grass you know it's not going to get to you real quick and you have time to set up."
Other changes to the Trop included an entirely new backdrop with a new scoreboard and advertisement panels. The lower catwalk has been painted black.
"The turf looks great," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's been playing good. All the other cosmetic changes are beautiful. I really like the ring being black. I didn't know that I would. The people have a good eye for fashion. They were absolutely right."
UPTON SCRATCHED: B.J. Upton, slated to play second and bat ninth, was taken out of the starting lineup with soreness in his lower left calf.
Upton said he believed the injury occurred when he made a diving catch in centerfield Friday. He didn't feel it after the play, but woke up sore Saturday morning. Still, it won't keep him out of Monday's season opener. Maddon said Upton will start at second base at Yankee Stadium, completing his successful transition to the super-utility role.
"It's opening day, that's exactly what counts," Upton said.
RIGGANS SENT DOWN: Despite batting .316 this spring, the third-highest average among Rays batters with 35 or more at bats, C Shawn Riggans was optioned to Triple-A Durham before Saturday's game.
"There's nothing really that prepares you for the major leagues," Riggans said. "I don't care what level of the minor leagues you're at, nothing prepares you for major-league baseball but the major leagues. I'm going to do what I can there. I'm going to bust my butt to try to get back here."
Maddon said the main factor in the decision was making sure Riggans could play every day.
"I didn't think it was fair to have him as a backup," Maddon said. "To have him playing on a regular basis will benefit us."
MISCELLANY: Spring instructor Dave Martinez will replace injured first-base coach George Hendrick left knee surgery for the first two series of the season. ... With the roster complete, four players changed their numbers: RHP James Shields (50 to 33), RHP Gary Glover (71 to 47), RHP Jae Kuk Ryu (17 to 11) and IF Brendan Harris (38 to 16).