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Another flip-flop at lineup's top

It wasn't that manager Joe Maddon thought there was anything that wrong with the Devil Rays batting order. Actually, he said it was because enough things were going right that he decided to change it again, flip-flopping Rocco Baldelli back to the leadoff spot and Carl Crawford to third.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 12, 2007


ARLINGTON, Texas - It wasn't that manager Joe Maddon thought there was anything that wrong with the Devil Rays batting order. Actually, he said it was because enough things were going right that he decided to change it again, flip-flopping Rocco Baldelli back to the leadoff spot and Carl Crawford to third.

"It just looked like they both were more comfortable in the other slots," Maddon said. "Neither came to me and talked about it; this is just an observation on my part based on last year. I thought Rocco did a nice job leading off, and I thought Carl did a nice job hitting behind him."

With enough others in the lineup producing, Maddon felt comfortable switching them back to "see how it flies."

Maddon originally switched them toward the end of spring training, wanting Crawford to use his speed at the top and putting Baldelli in the coveted No. 3 spot. Baldelli went into Wednesday hitting .200 (and Crawford .250), but Maddon thought the more important factor was that Baldelli has been healthy enough to play almost every day. Coming into this season, Crawford hit .282 in the No. 3 spot and .289 leading off; Baldelli hit .335 leading off and .281 when third.

"I don't want to try to over-think it at all," Maddon said. "It just felt like a pretty good thing to do based on everything I'm seeing."

Maddon had been thinking about the change for a while but apparently didn't make up his mind until Wednesday afternoon. The first lineup bench coach Bill Evers posted had Crawford leading off and Baldelli third, but the new version was posted later.

NO MUDDER: Could it have been more than Jamey Wright's quick delivery and catcher Gerald Laird's strong throws that led to Crawford being caught stealing twice in the same game Tuesday for the first time in his career?

Maddon suggested the Rangers grounds crew may have had a hand, or perhaps a hose, in slowing Crawford down.

"The first-base area was rather damp," Maddon said, then paused for effect. "I don't know if they had a sprinkler problem or whatever it may have been, but it was a little bit damp on the first-base side. A little old-fashioned gamesmanship occurred - they actually turned the fans on and they dampened the infield."

Texas manager Ron Washington said he didn't ask for any help from the grounds crew and that it was Wright's exceptionally quick 1.21 seconds to home plate that was the difference: "I don't care how fast you are, when a pitcher's move is that quick, you can't steal."

NO PLACE LIKE DOME: The Rays haven't won at the Metrodome since June 3, 2004, losing their past nine, but they aren't the only team that struggles there. Maddon said the Twins have the kind of home-dome advantage the Rays are trying to establish.

"We want to make it a very uncomfortable place to play," he said. "They do play well there. I felt it last year with this group, and I felt it in years past with my other group. It's a tough place to play. They do it right."

SNOW-BALL: With a night game and the potential that snowfall could further delay their arrival, the Rays sent tonight's starting pitcher, Casey Fossum, ahead to Minnesota on a commercial flight so he would be well rested.

"We wanted to find out how badly it was actually snowing up there," Maddon said. "He's going to call us back and let us know."

MISCELLANY: Relievers Gary Glover and Ruddy Lugo have been battling the flu. ... Carlos Pena's homer was his first hit of the season. ... Elijah Dukes is likely to get two starts in centerfield in Minnesota with Baldelli as the DH, which means Jonny Gomes is likely to remain on the bench.