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Maddon embraces tough early test
The Devil Rays aren't too thrilled to open this season with 10 of their first 13 games away from Tropicana Field.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 2, 2007
NEW YORK - As rough as they found the road last season, compiling a historically bad 20-61 record, the Devil Rays aren't too thrilled to open this season with 10 of their first 13 games away from Tropicana Field.
And having to start at Yankee Stadium - where they have an abysmal 19-54 (.260) mark -makes it even worse.
But manager Joe Maddon welcomes the challenge.
"I'm good with that," Maddon said. "There's no ducking anybody; by the end of the season you have to play everybody the appropriate number of times. We're ready for it. I think we've played well recently. Some guys that were on the bubble now can really breathe a little bit and we'll see even more out of them. I'm very excited about everything, and eager to do it.
"Why not? Why not open there? We're going to have to play a playoff game there at some point. Why not see what opening day is like?"
The Rays were guests for the Yankees' home opener in 2002, and in 2004 opened the season against the Yankees in Tokyo.
FINISHING TOUCHES: The Rays made the final moves to submit their roster by Sunday's 3 p.m. deadline, officially adding relievers Al Reyes and Gary Glover and signing Carlos Pena, who will make $800,000 with the chance to earn another $400,000 in plate-appearance incentives.
Pena replaces Greg Norton, who is scheduled for surgery today to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. They also moved LHP Jon Switzer to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Pena.
FOR OPENERS: LF Carl Crawford is 1-for-17 on opening day, but his one hit was a big one, a two-out, two-strike, three-run walkoff homer in the ninth to beat Boston in Lou Piniella's 2003 managerial debut. ... Crawford makes his fifth opening day start, tying former catcher John Flaherty for the franchise most. ... Scott Kazmir matches Wilson Alvarez as the only pitchers to make two starts. ... Rocco Baldelli hasn't played on opening day since 2004.
ROCCO ON THE RUN: Baldelli's right hamstring feels well enough for him to return to centerfield, but to reduce the risk of an aggravation, the Rays will limit him to DH duties for at least the first week, with rookie Elijah Dukes and B.J. Upton playing center.
"It's all based on how Rocco feels," Maddon said. "I told him, as we've talked about in the past, 'I don't want any artificial deadlines. When you're ready to go, tell me you're ready to go and we'll make the move.' For now I just want him to concentrate on that because he can control his running game better as an offensive player."
FOR THE AGES: With an average of 24.78, the Rays' opening day lineup is the youngest in the majors in the past 24 years. ... The outfield trio of Crawford (25), Dukes (22) and Delmon Young (21), with an average age of 22.6, ranks as the fifth youngest since the 1961 start of the expansion era. It matches, among others, the Rays' 2003 group of Ben Grieve (26), Baldelli (21) and Crawford. ... Kazmir, at 23, is the youngest pitcher to face the Yankees in a season opener since 22-year-old Camilo Pascual in 1956 for the Washington Senators. Kazmir is the youngest to pitch in a Yankees home opener since 2002, when 22-year-old Joe Kennedy started for the Rays.
MISCELLANY: LHP Casey Fossum completed his preparation for Friday's home-opener start by throwing 90 pitches in an intrasquad game at the minor-league complex, allowing 13 hits in 51/3 innings. ... Presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is among the big names expected at Yankee Stadium today. ... 1B Hee-Seop Choi was not on the preliminary Durham roster and may be headed back to Korea.