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Civil reunion for Rays, Yankees?

Jonny Gomes is restrained by Rays teammates and umpire Charlie Reliford during a March 12 spring game against the Yankees.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Jonny Gomes is restrained by Rays teammates and umpire Charlie Reliford during a March 12 spring game against the Yankees.

BALTIMORE — The rain that washed out Thursday's game followed the Rays to New York, but whenever they take the field at Yankee Stadium — be it tonight, Saturday afternoon or Sunday — they should get an interesting reception.

Though players and managers on both sides say the incidents of spring training are behind them and they expect no further controversies, they don't speak for the Yankee Stadium fans, who seem likely to have a few things to say, especially to the two Rays cast as villains — Elliot Johnson and Jonny Gomes.

"They're very knowledgeable, very educated and they don't forget," Gomes said. "So I don't know if I'll be wearing my jersey during batting practice. But other than that, you can't hide from them."

Johnson, 24, has never been to New York, much less Yankee Stadium, where he is tentatively scheduled on Saturday to make what will be a most memorable major-league debut as DH.

"From what I've been told, these fans are on top of things, so they'll probably remember me and give me a nice welcoming, I'm sure," he said. "We'll see how it goes."

Veteran reliever Trever Miller said he would be "disappointed" if there wasn't a raucous reception.

"There will be some ire there, some anger," he said. "I think they like to come to the ballpark and take out their frustrations on us, and it just gives them fuel from spring training to go ahead and do that.

"It will be interesting to hear what they have to say. They do their homework. They're very creative. It's a smart town. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be entertaining."

To review, the teams had two spring incidents. On March 8, Johnson crashed into Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and fractured his wrist, drawing criticism from New York manager Joe Girardi and setting off an exchange of words on proper etiquette for exhibition play. Four days later, the Yankees' Shelley Duncan slid hard and spikes high into Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, setting off a bench-clearing brawl that featured Gomes charging from rightfield at Duncan.

Gomes, Duncan and Melky Cabrera were suspended for their roles in the March 12 incident, but all can play because they appealed and their hearings are Monday.

The teams played two subsequent exhibitions without incident and though there now will be, to borrow a phrase from Duncan, regular-season intensity, neither side expects more trouble.

Certainly not Rays manager Joe Maddon, who said he had a one-on-one "exchange" of thoughts with Duncan near the end of spring, shook hands and considers him a friend. Nor Girardi who, while bringing up yet again that he thought Johnson didn't need to run into Cervelli, said: "I feel it's over" and he expects "a good, clean, hard game."

Johnson said he thought he might get hit in the subsequent spring meeting, but figured the Yankees got their retaliation on Duncan's slide and doesn't expect anything more. "Honestly, I don't think they will, but you never know," he said. "If they do and that's what they want to do, that's baseball." And Gomes said: "If they buzz us, that would be them starting it, and I don't think they want anything to happen more than we do."

But Yankees veteran Jorge Posada didn't seem to rule anything out in talking to New York writers on Thursday.

"We'll see," he said. "We're going to keep playing the game hard, and now we know what to expect from those guys."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Civil reunion for Rays, Yankees? 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 5:06pm]
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