tampabay.com

Lefty trio a good bet to top lineup again

As manager Joe Maddon prepared for today's first full-squad workout of the spring, he hinted the top of his lineup card will look a lot like the one he finished with last season.

By JOE SMITH
Published February 20, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG - As manager Joe Maddon prepared for today's first full-squad workout of the spring, he hinted the top of his lineup card will look a lot like the one he finished with last season.

Maddon said Tuesday his initial plan is to keep left-handed hitters 2B Akinori Iwamura, OF Carl Crawford and 1B Carlos Pena together in the first three spots of the order, hoping to build off the team's improved performance in the final two months 26-30.

Maddon pointed out "our lefties did a nice job of hitting lefties," as Crawford hit .323 against them and Iwamura .318. Pena capped a career season (46 home runs, 121 RBIs) with the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

"I'm not saying it's 100 percent sure," Maddon said of the lineup. "But I'm going to take a look at that primarily in the beginning."

"A FRESH START": One of the most intriguing nonroster invitees to camp could be INF Andy Cannizaro, 29, who signed with the Rays in January after spending most of the past six years in the Yankees farm system.

Cannizaro has played 13 games in the majors but hopes to latch on with Tampa Bay in a utility role, perhaps competing with Ben Zobrist. Cannizaro split stints at second base, shortstop and third for Triple-A Scranton last season after missing nearly four months with a back injury sustained during the spring.

After coming off a "really frustrating year," Cannizaro said he welcomed his shot with the Rays as a "fresh start."

ROCCO UPDATE: The coaching staff met Monday to go over the game plan with RF Rocco Baldelli. Maddon said Baldelli, who missed three-quarters of last season with hamstring injuries, will take it slow during camp and platoon at designated hitter and in the outfield when the spring games start.

"We're trying to figure what is the best way to keep him as fresh as possible," Maddon said.

ARRIVALS INFO: With OFs Crawford and Jon Weber arriving Tuesday, the only Rays missing were OF Jonny Gomes, Pena, RHP Juan Salas and INFs Willy Aybar and Joel Guzman. Salas supposedly made some progress Tuesday in resolving his visa issues in the Dominican Republic; the Rays don't know how delayed Aybar and Guzman will be.