BALTIMORE — All-Star LF Carl Crawford doesn't know when or even if there will be official talks about a contract extension with the Rays, but he seemed very clear on one thing Wednesday: that he "couldn't imagine" playing anywhere else.
"Most definitely, I would like to stay here with the Rays. This is the only organization I know. I don't know nothing different. It would be nice," Crawford said. "I'd hate to leave right when the getting is good. You've been around for all the bad stuff, you want to be around for the good part, too. And it looks like the good part is coming ahead."
The subject came up because the Rays had a Tuesday deadline to pick up Crawford's $8.25-million option for 2009; they also have a $10-million option for 2010, after which he can become a free agent. He said he hasn't talked to his agents about approaching the Rays, for now taking it year by year and waiting to see what happens.
"I honestly wasn't really thinking about an extension or nothing like that because in my mind it is so far away," Crawford said. "But I just couldn't imagine seeing myself being anywhere else though."
But if the Rays came to him? "Of course I'd want to listen," he said. "Everybody's getting extended these days it seems like. So I'd definitely listen."
Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman, while declining to discuss specifics, said the Rays "share that sentiment" and want to keep Crawford around for "a long time," and that as with other top young players "we'll do everything in our power to keep him in a Rays uniform as long as we can."
DUE PROCESS: Jonny Gomes' appeal of his two-game suspension was moved to Monday, meaning he'll remain eligible through the weekend in New York, with hope of at least getting one game dropped.
Yankees Shelley Duncan and Melky Cabrera, who were suspended three games each from the spring training incident, will have their hearings Monday, also.
DEPTH CHART: RHP Grant Balfour cleared waivers, and the Rays are waiting to see if he will accept an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham, where he would earn a decent $175,000.
KAZ "FEELS GREAT": Ace LHP Scott Kazmir had a second strong bullpen session at the minor-league complex in St. Petersburg, mixing in 10 change-ups with 35 fastballs in the 13-minute session.
"It just feels great," Kazmir said. "Arm feels live, feels like I'm getting good extension on the ball, and my mechanics are good. So I'm happy where I'm at."
Kazmir, sidelined since a Feb. 26 elbow strain, is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Saturday then advance to batting practice and extended spring/minor-league games, "shooting for" a late April return to the majors.
Top draft pick LHP David Price, sidelined since March 20 with a muscle strain in his elbow, "felt good" after playing catch Wednesday for the first time.
ZOBRIST DELAYED: INF Ben Zobrist's return is likely delayed until at least mid April after the latest exam showed his fractured left thumb remains unhealed.
MISCELLANY: Nathan Haynes started in rightfield as manager Joe Maddon wanted to see his newest player, and because Eric Hinske was 3-for-21 against Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera. & Four Rays minor-league teams open tonight, with Jeff Niemann starting for Triple-A Durham, Jake McGee for Double-A Montgomery, Heath Rollins for advanced Class A Vero Beach and Alex Cobb for Class A Columbus. & Tuesday's home opener is close to a sellout, with no plans to exceed the 34,000 capacity created by covering a portion of the upper deck.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.