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Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz compares Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña to himself, Manny Ramirez

BOSTON — David Ortiz knows something about dynamic duos.

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For 5½ seasons, he paired with Manny Ramirez in the middle of the Boston batting order, and they tortured opponents as the game's most fearsome and productive middle-of-the-order tandem. And looking at what 3B Evan Longoria and 1B Carlos Peña have done this season as the Rays' 3-4 hitters — Longoria leading the majors with 44 RBIs, Peña the game's top home-run hitter with 13 — he offered high praise.

"Longoria and Peña, man, they remind me of me and Manny," Ortiz said before Sunday's game, "the one-two punch of me and Manny we had here. It's unbelievable.

"And you know what is the best thing about the whole thing? They're good kids. Both of them. Carlos is a good guy; Longoria is an unbelievable kid. I wish him the best, really. He's a great player with a great personality."

PICKING HIS SPOTS: With today the Rays' only day off between two stretches of 20 games in 20 days, manager Joe Maddon will "start looking for creative ways to rest guys."

He started by giving Peña off Sunday night, though the decision was easier because Peña — who pinch-hit in the ninth — was 3-for-22 with 13 strikeouts against Boston starter Josh Beckett. Plus, Peña gets the benefit of two days off, and Willy Aybar got to make his second start of the season at first, and his eighth overall.

"It's been a difficult schedule in that sense," Maddon said. "Last year we had more built-in days off, and we were more at home in the beginning. There's a lot more imagination required, I think, to get through the first part of this season."

IN THE PINK: RHP Joe Nelson still wasn't sure how much his Saturday afternoon phone call to the players union mattered, but he was glad Major League Baseball worked it out so the players could wear their pink-striped Reebok cleats as part of a Mother's Day initiative to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research.

"It was just the right thing to do; it didn't matter how it got done," Nelson said.

The hangup was Reebok's plan to auction the cleats and give the money to the Avon Foundation for Women, which is not an MLB-sanctioned charity. "I don't think MLB tried to do anything wrong," Nelson said. "They have responsibilities, too, and I understand that. But ultimately it's for a good cause, regardless of where the money goes. … This is something we should be aware of 365 days a year, but this is Mother's Day, and that raises it to a new level."

Players also used pink bats, wore pink wristband and Phiten magnetic necklaces, and had pink ribbons attached to their jerseys. "It's very cool," INF/OF Ben Zobrist said. "I've never actually gotten to hit with a pink bat before.''

MINOR MATTERS: After hitting three homers in his first 24 games for Triple-A Durham, OF Justin Ruggiano hit four in five at-bats over two games. He hit three, including a grand slam, in consecutive at-bats Saturday (before reaching on a forceout), then another in his first at-bat Sunday. … … OF Matt Joyce raised his average to .330. … Double-A RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who came out of Tuesday's start with a shoulder strain, will start a throwing program today with the target of a May 23 return, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

MISCELLANY: The Rays have a steal in 13 straight games (with 29 in that span); the only longer streak in the 2000s is 17 by the 2001 Yankees. Also, they have 22 steals in 10 games against Boston. … Of Carl Crawford's major-league leading 22 steals, 11 have come against Boston. His streak of 24 straight, going back to last season, matches Pittsburgh's Nate McLouth for the longest active streak. ... Maddon said INF Joe Dillon, the veteran acquired from Oakland for Adam Kennedy and assigned to Durham, is "a really good offensive player" and "somebody we may be able to utilize as the season's in progress here." … Backup C Shawn Riggans is scheduled to see Dr. James Andrews today about his right shoulder, which he had been rehabbing at Montgomery until having a setback.

Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz compares Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña to himself, Manny Ramirez 05/10/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 11, 2009 7:20am]

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