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Brignac flashes defense in Rays debut

ST. PETERSBURG — SS Reid Brignac didn't wait long to shine in his big-league debut.

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The 22-year-old rookie, called up Thursday when Jason Bartlett went on the disabled list (strained right knee), made arguably the Rays' defensive play of the day in helping turn a double play in the first inning Friday against the Royals.

When Mark Grudzielanek hit a sharp grounder up the middle, 2B Akinori Iwamura bobbled it a bit before tossing it to Brignac, who caught it, spun and delivered a strike to first as David DeJesus slid into him.

Brignac, who said he only had a few jitters, handled eight chances without an error, including turning two double plays. At the plate, he was 0-for-3 with a walk.

"It felt really good to get (some plays) early," Brignac said. "I was very excited to be out there."

Manager Joe Maddon said reports from Triple-A Durham were that Brignac had been playing well defensively, and with Bartlett out, Brignac and Ben Zobrist were expected to split time until after the All-Star break.

"(Brignac) held his own very nicely at short," Maddon said. "Made some nice plays."

For Brignac, one of the Rays' top prospects, it has been a whirlwind few days. He found out pregame Thursday in Durham that he was getting the call — "I was a little surprised," he said. After taking the 7 a.m. flight to Tampa on Friday, he was excited to see his name in the starting lineup.

Maddon didn't elaborate on if — or how — Brignac and Zobrist will platoon, only saying that he wanted to get the rookie "into the fire." Zobrist, in his third stint with the Rays this season (.292 in nine games), had been bothered by a sore right shoulder, which likely contributed to the club calling up two shortstops, but he said he feels good.

"I just wanted to do this today; we'll see how it works out," Maddon said of starting Brignac. "Zobrist will be out there also."

Brignac said his parents and a couple of friends flew in from Louisiana for his debut, trading their typical holiday, Cajun-style barbecue for ballpark fare.

"I think they'll enjoy these hot dogs here a little better than the barbecue," Brignac said.

CELEBRITY SIGHTING: Many Rays were surprised to see comedian Chris Rock waiting at the clubhouse door after the game. Rock, who had performed in Tampa the previous two nights, gave each player a celebratory fist pump, yelling "We did it!" and "We won."

"That was funny, though, he caught everyone off guard," starter Edwin Jackson said. "You walk in, and Chris Rock is the first person (you see)."

Rock made a short postgame visit and left wearing a Rays cap, with a blue Rays jersey draped over his right shoulder. Maddon had attended Rock's stand-up act Thursday and said the star gave the Rays a "15-20 second tribute."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Maddon said he believes Bartlett would require only the minimal DL stint, "The soreness will leave in maybe about a week, and he should be fine by the time his time is up."… RHP Al Reyes is slated to throw a simulated game today and be re-evaluated.

MISCELLANY: LF Carl Crawford got his 299th career stolen base. He is one shy of becoming just the ninth player since 1900 to reach 300 steals before age 27. … DeJesus extended his career-high hitting streak to 16, which is the longest active streak in the majors. … C Dioner Navarro will sign autographs from 11 a.m. to noon today during a "Block Party" at the West Tampa Little League fields. … Six Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, three coaches and a trainer were named to the Southern League All-Star team, including starter Wade Davis.

Brignac flashes defense in Rays debut 07/04/08 [Last modified: Saturday, July 5, 2008 10:28pm]
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