Rays and Indians, and other topics
Update 4:33 p.m The game is over, with the Rays and Indians settling for a 4-4 tie.
Manager Joe Maddon said after the game he doesn't feel B.J. Upton's left tricep injury is anything serious, but the centerfielder will still see a doctor tonight and follow up. Maddon said Iwamura, who left the game with back stiffness, will likely play Friday against the Yankees.
Update 4:04 p.m We're into extra innings now, as Barfield hit a game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
Rays 4, Indians 4
Update 3:24 p.m RHP Jeff Niemann pitched a scoreless seventh, stranding a runner on third when Ellliot Johnson and Reid Brignac turned a nice inning-ending double play.
In the top of the eighth, Gomes just missed a homer by seemingly a few feet. Gomes, who moved into centerfield for the late innings, ripped a pitch just wide of the leftfield foul pole. Judging by his reaction after touching first, he thought it was fair.
Rays 4, Indians 3
Update 3:17 p.m Sorry for the delay (Internet issues). The Rays got back on top in their half of the sixth, thanks to an RBI double by Joel Guzman and an RBI groundout by Bartlett.
Evan Longoria pinch hit in the seventh, but with a runner on third, he grounded out to end the inning.
Rays 4, Indians 3
Update 2:43 p.m The Indians have pulled ahead, scoring a run off reliever Scott Munter in the fifth off an RBI single by Peralta.
Indians 3, Rays 2
Update 235 p.m RHP Jason Hammel gets pulled with one out in the fifth. Overall, a pretty solid outing, with Hammel giving up two runs on four hits. The big hit, however, was a two-run homer by Martinez in the second.
RHP Scott Munter enters in relief, inheriting a runner on first base.
We'll check in with Hammel later to get his thoughts.
Rays 2, Indians 2
Update 2:17 p.m An update here on Upton. According to the Rays, Upton suffered a left tricep contusion when he was hit by a first-inning pitch. Upton has already left the stadium, and plans to get examined further by a doctor later tonight.
Also, 2B Akinori Iwamura left the game for precautionary reasons due to back stiffness. Iwamura left theh game after his second at-bat, a strikeout in the third.
Update 2:06 p.m OF Jon Weber, who's competing for the fifth outfielder spot, just came through with a solo homer in the top of the fourth.
Weber was originally not in the lineup, but inserted after B J Upton was switched to DH (due to the spongy spot in centerfield).
Rays 2, Indians 2
Update 1:48 p.m Dioner Navarro sure liked hitting in the No. 2 slot. Navarro belted a solo homer in the top of the third to bring the Rays within 2-1.
Navarro, hitting in place of Carl Crawford (who had the day off), also had a double in the first inning.
Indians 2, Rays 1
Update 1:34 p.m The Indians strike first, thanks to a two-run homer by Andy Gonzalez in the bottom of the second.
Gonzalez ripped a 2-1 pitch by RHP Jason Hammel over the rightfield fence, scoring Kelly Shoppach (who had walked).
Hammel is coming off a strong outing against the Braves, but Maddon said he's still looking for more consistency in him. "He has the stuff," Maddon said. Hammel is competing for one of the final two rotation spots (three, depending on Kazmir's availability).
Two of the other candidates, RHP Andy Sonnanstine and LHP J.P. Howell, will start the next two games. With Maddon saying the club could settle on its rotation by the end of the weekend, this could be interesting.
Indians 2, Rays 0
Update 1:04 p.m The Rays got a little bit of a scare in the top of the first. B.J. Upton, moved from CF to DH due to a huge puddle in center, got hit by a pitch from Paul Byrd. Upton appeared to get hit in the left elbow, but favored his left hand, grimacing in pain as he slowly made his way to first. Upton was walked to first by assistant trainer Paul Harker.
Upton is now being taken out of the game and being replaced at first.
We'll keep you posted.
Update 1:00 p.m. The Indians grounds crew has tried for hours to remove the water from a soggy, spongy patch in centerfield, to no avail. Manager Joe Maddon wanted CF B.J. Upton to play shallow, not in shallow water.
So here is the day's first lineup change. Upton will move to DH and Jon Weber will take his spot in centerfield and bat seventh (in place of Hector Gimenez). The Indians also scratched Grady Sizemore, erring on the side of caution.
There were five guys out in centerfield with leafblowers and squeegees of some sort, but did little damage to the puddle. Upton had a funny reaction when first catching a glimpse of the spongy turf, shaking his head and adding a few choice words.
Some other news and notes:
*INF Ben Zobrist (broken left thumb) will get re-evaulated by doctors on Sunday, Maddon said, with the club being cautious with his activities, not wanting him to fracture the finger further.
*Backup C Shawn Riggans made the trip today and will likely catch in the bullpen. Maddon said he could be used Friday against the Yankees as fill-in duty, but would like to get him into a game on Saturday against the Pirates.
*INF Willy Aybar will make the trip Friday to Legends Field and could play, Maddon said. Aybar, the likely starter at third if Evan Longoria is sent down, has been nursing a sore left hamstring.
*RHP James Shields, the Rays opening day starter, will pitch Friday at the minor league complex, with C Dioner Navarro behind the plate.
The Rays are headed east for their game with the Indians, and word is the weather in Winter Haven will be fine. The Rays are taking a mixed crew, with Carl Crawford and Cliff Floyd among the regulars not going.
More interesting is the travel roster for the Friday night game against the Yankees in Tampa. Pretty much all the Rays are going, including OF Jonny Gomes, who certainly garnered his share of attention from Yankees fans for charging in from rightfield after Shelley Duncan's hard slide in the March 12 brawl game.
As for Scott Kazmir, he's been in the trainers' room and on the field this morning at Progress Energy Park, but hasn't done any throwing yet. And it turns out he won't throw today, meaning it will now be more than a week since he was last on the mound.
INF Ben Zobrist, recovering well from his fractured left thumb, is however, and for a few tosses was wearing his glove on his right hand, catching the ball, then taking the glove off to throw it back.
On the outfield search, ESPN's Buster Olney writes on his blog this morning that having been unsuccessful in their bid to sign free-agent OF Kenny Lofton the Rays "are also taking a look at Coco Crisp'' whom the Red Sox have been looking to trade. Olney goes on to write: "Tampa Bay is loaded with a wide range of pitching prospects, so it would seem that Boston could find a fit if it wanted to make a deal.''
Crisp's contract, however, is another matter - he is to make $4.75-million this year, $5.75-million next year and has a 2010 option of $8-million, with a $500,000 buyout, meaning the Rays would be on the hook for $11-million, which kinda seems like a lot for a platoon player.
Here is the Rays lineup for Thursday's game: