Crawford hopes Upton steals bases

Crawford sees a lot of speed in Upton

By Marc Topkin
Published April 5, 2007

NEW YORK - Carl Crawford isn't planning on slowing down. He has led the American League in stolen bases three of the past four seasons and is aiming this season to reach the 60-steal mark for the first time.

But Crawford said he could see B.J. Upton eventually running by him.

"I'm going to stay in his ear and let him know he can definitely get 50 bags just as easily as I can, and hopefully, it will sink in," Crawford said. "I won it for three years. He can have it the next three years.

"He needs to be known as a basestealer, too. He's got speed, and he can steal bases, too."

Crawford figures the Rays will run a lot and says Elijah Dukes is capable of stealing 30 bases and Delmon Young at least 25.

Upton admits he needs some work in that part of his game, learning the pitchers and better counts to run on, having been caught 17 times while stealing 46 bases at Triple A last season and 13 times while stealing 44 the year before. Until he does, he doesn't expect to give Crawford a run for the title just yet.

"Maybe in a couple years," Upton said. "When he's not in the American League anymore, I can get it. As long as he is, it's his."

WET WEDNESDAY: Rain started falling by 9 a.m., and the decision to postpone the game was made just before the Yankee Stadium gates were to open at 11.

But not until there was at least discussion about an usual possibility - rescheduling the 1:05 game for 7:05. If so, the Rays would have changed back into their street clothes, bused back to their Manhattan hotel, then returned a few hours later.

"I would have been fine with that," manager Joe Maddon said. "Go back, hang out a little bit, come about 4 o'clock or so."

No makeup date was set, but most likely, they will play a day-night doubleheader during their next visit in July.

PITCHING IN: Not wanting to delay the season debut of any one pitcher too long, the Rays decided to push all their starters back a day.

With Jae Seo starting tonight, James Shields will work Friday's home opener with Casey Fossum drawing Toronto ace Roy Halladay on Saturday and Scott Kazmir pitching Sunday on an extra day's rest.

No. 5 starter Edwin Jackso* will open the series in Texas on Monday followed by Seo and Shields.

MINOR MATTERS: With the minor-league seasons starting tonight, the Rays have to look only to the Triple-A Durham rotation of Jason Hammel, J.P. Howell, Jeff Niemann, Andy Sonnanstine and Mitch Talbot to see the progress they've made and the promise they have.

"We're extremely pleased with the depth we have in our rotation at Triple A," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "We feel like all five of them are prospects and all five will pitch at the major-league level in some capacity."

MISCELLANY: Rays tickets are now being sold at the International Plaza concierge desk with a $1.75 per ticket service charge. ... With LHP Andy Pettitte starting for the Yankees, Maddon moved right-handed hitting Dukes up to sixth in the lineup and dropped left-handed hitting Akinori Iwamura to eighth. ... With extreme cold forecast, C Dioner Navarro and DH Baldelli, who both had hamstring problems, could be game-time decisions on starting tonight. ... Tickets are still available for Friday's home opener though the Rays expect a sellout. ... Bullpen roles remain interchangeable, but Maddon said that if they'd had a ninth-inning lead Monday, Al Reyes would have been the closer.

Marc Topkin can be reached at 727 893-8801 or topkin@sptimes.com.

Young players, big city

NEW YORK - With a day game Monday, off day Tuesday and rainout Wednesday, the relatively young and somewhat adventurous Rays ended up with a lot of free time. Having it in New York made it even more interesting.

"You can probably just imagine," Carl Crawford said. "Put it this way: It won't do no good to try to call somebody in their room. You better have a cell phone number."

"The only thing I can think of worse," manager Joe Maddon said, joking, "would be Las Vegas - maybe."

Some, such as James Shields, planned to go shopping. Others, such as Edwin Jackson, talked about eating.

A few had more serious pursuits. Rocco Baldelli planned to visit the American Museum of Natural History with Josh Paul (who Tuesday toured the International Center of Photography) and Carlos Pena possibly going along.

"You have to get your culture in," Paul said.

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer