tampabay.com

Maddon gives Crawford a breather before break

Manager Joe Maddon gave him a head start with most of a day off Sunday but also acknowledged that Crawford is somewhat sore and stiff from his recent play, including a rough collision with an outfield wall Saturday night.

By Marc Topkin
Published July 9, 2007


KANSAS CITY. Mo. - LF Carl Crawford is taking a low-key approach to Tuesday's All-Star Game, going without any friends or relatives in hopes of getting rest despite the hectic itinerary in San Francisco and rugged travel of getting out there and back to Tampa.

Manager Joe Maddon gave him a head start with most of a day off Sunday but also acknowledged that Crawford is somewhat sore and stiff from his recent play, including a rough collision with an outfield wall Saturday night.

"The next three days are crazy for him and that means absolutely no break whatsoever, " Maddon said. "He's not going to talk about being banged up a little bit, but I know he is. So I thought it was a good day to back him off a bit."

Crawford, true to form, said he was fine and was unclear why he didn't start Sunday. He popped out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and played the final inning in leftfield.

"I don't really know what it's all about, " said Crawford, who is 9-for-50 in his third extended slump in the past six weeks. "I'm fine. There ain't anything wrong with me. I just figure I was probably just getting a break for the All-Star Game."

Crawford was selected by AL manager Jim Leyland as the Rays' lone representative and said he was excited to hear that Leyland based the decision on Crawford's strong showing, finishing ninth among AL outfielders, on the players' ballots.

"That definitely makes me feel better about going because the players are most important, " Crawford said. "They know."

REHAB REPORT: B.J. Upton, out since June 9 with a strained left quad, was to continue his rehab by playing centerfield Sunday for Class A Vero, but the game was rained out. The Rays were hoping to get him two games in the outfield by Wednesday night, when Vero plays at Dunedin, and have him rejoin the big-league team Thursday and start in center.

J.P. DUTY: Rather than have No. 5 starter J.P. Howell spend three days off and the first week of the second half in the bullpen, the Rays optioned him to Triple-A Durham so he can keep pitching. He'll make an abbreviated start Thursday for the Bulls, take a regular turn Monday and be called back up to start one of the games, as scheduled, in the July 21 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The Rays will hold his roster spot open, likely for Upton.

WALK THIS WAY: Coach Jim Hickey held an unusual meeting Sunday morning with all pitchers (except starter Scott Kazmir), though Maddon insisted it was not a result of Saturday's latest bullpen meltdown that featured a team-record five consecutive walks.

"Coming off (Saturday) night obviously makes it look like it's specifically about that, but it was not, " Maddon said. "He had this meeting planned prior to (Saturday's) game, just a meeting about the second half of the year, and part of it, I'm sure, is that he's been gone several days (after eye surgery). ... He wanted to talk about the rotation the second half and reemphasize his philosophies."

MISCELLANY: Jonny Gomes has nine homers and a .452 average in 13 games against the Royals. ... 3B Akinori Iwamura's wife is expected to have labor induced today and deliver their first baby. ... 3B prospect Evan Longoria doubled and was hit by a pitch in the All-Star Futures Game.