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Game likely on, Gross in right



Update, 8:54: Still raining here, but MLB officials remain hopeful that it is coming to an end. Latest word is that the game could start about 9:45. Once the tarp comes off, the lineups will be introduced about 11 minutes later and then the rest of the pre-game ceremonies.

Update 8:11 p.m. Commissioner Bud Selig said he still feels confident that Game 3 will be played tonight.

"I've been sitting both in Milwaukee and here watching he Weather Channel - they all say by 8:30 or 9 o'clock, (the front) should be all gone," he said.

Selig added that he didn't consider cancelling the game earlier in the day, noting how in all his years as an owner, that "people don't want the game to get called." Selig said both teams have been cooperative and the Phillies have told him the field is in really good shape.

Selig didn't offer a time in which - if the storm persists - the game would be called, saying he'd use "common sense," citing his many years as an owner in Milwaukee, where weather is always a factor.

"You call a game off every day starting April 6 because it rained sometime during the game, you’d play until February 8th," Selig said.

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Manager Joe Maddon chose to start Gabe Gross in rightfield tonight, and said he has been told Game 3 is likely to be played with the start delayed until 9 or 9:30 due to weather issues.

Maddon made what seemed like another unorthodox move in opting for the lefthanded hitting Gross, who is just 1-for-16 (.063) in the postseason, against Phillies lefthander Jamie Moyer. But Maddon said he likes the matchups and Gross' "swing path" against the soft-tossing Moyer.

"Just looking at Moyer vs. the world,'' Maddon said. "Just how he throws, how he is versus righties, how he is versus lefties, how we match up with our righthanded hitters, how we match up with our lefties.''

Maddon said he also considered Rocco Baldelli and Ben Zobrist and it was the toughest decision he has had to make this postseason.

"Everybody was a candidate actually,'' he said. "I've been thinking about this one ... I talk about not over-thinking things, but this one caused me as much back-and-forth as I've had to this point.''

Maddon said Baldelli, who played the whole nine innings in Game 2, was fine and his physical condition was not a factor. He also said he hoped sitting out for two games could help Gross break out of his slump. "Just to get away from it and just watch for a couple days,'' Maddon said, "because he had been so effective in so many moments for us this year and against certain lefties, and here it is. We think this is that certain lefty.''

Maddon also said rookie lefty reliever David Price, who worked the final 2 1/3 innings in Game 2 Thursday, would be available tonight, though in a lesser role.

Rain has been falling much of the afternoon, but Maddon said MLB officials are confident the storm will pass through and the game will start, though delayed from the planned 8:35 first pitch. "Unless anything changes there's a good chance that we would start a little off time but nevertheless be able to get the full game in,'' Maddon said. "I think we're going to play.''

There is no definitive cutoff, but it sounds like the game would have to start by 10 p.m. or they would reconsider. One by-product is that there won't be batting practice on the field, leaving both teams to hit in the indoor batting cages.

Maddon also said he had a short talk with struggling rookie 3B Evan Longoria and was curious to see how he responded.

The Rays lineup:
Iwmaura, 2b
Upton, cf
Pena, 1b
Longoria, 3b
Crawford, lf
Navarro, c
Gross, rf
Bartlett, ss
Garza, p

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:43am]


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