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Drama, disappointment characterize Rays' road trip

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The cross-country road trip that ended Wednesday with a 3-6 record was disappointing, the Rays said. But it certainly wasn't boring.

Since the Rays left Tropicana Field, they had a nasty brawl with the Red Sox that led to five players being suspended; had a highly publicized scuffle between two of their own players, Matt Garza and Dioner Navarro; lost 1B Carlos Pena with a fractured finger, acknowledged that Carl Crawford may be limited by a sore knee and played five straight games without Cliff Floyd; and saw manager Joe Maddon get ejected and heard Scott Kazmir launch a major rant at umpire Derryl Cousins.

"It was," Maddon said, "kind of interesting."

After getting swept in Boston, the Rays felt good about winning two of three in Texas and the opener against the Angels, with visions of their first series victory in Anaheim since 1999. But they lost the last two, and after arriving in Boston with a 35-22 record and 1½-game division lead, they head home 38-28 and two games behind the Red Sox.

"This was a really active road trip," Crawford said. "We've got to bounce back from everything, put all that stuff behind us and keep going forward like we've been doing."

Maddon seemed most disappointed that they lost the last two in Anaheim. "We have to be able to not let that happen," he said. "Again, it's part of us growing. We're not there yet. We have to play hostile moments and in different environments, and we're not there yet."

PENALTY BOX: RHP James Shields officially dropped the appeal and began serving his six-game suspension Wednesday. With the Rays off today and Monday, he won't pitch again until June 19 against the Cubs, with eight days between starts.

The Rays should be able to fill in with no disruption to the rotation, with Andy Sonnanstine, Garza and Edwin Jackson facing the Marlins this weekend, then Kazmir and Sonnanstine (on a normal four days' rest) starting against the Cubs. When Shields returns, Jackson will have to start serving his five-game suspension, and the Rays will need a starter on June 21.

OF/DH Jonny Gomes served the last game of his five-game suspension Wednesday and is eager to return, but the Rays now will be without Crawford for four games.

Though his absence leaves a huge hole in their lineup, there could be a slight benefit in that with the off days he will get nearly a week of rest and will miss games at the Trop, where the turf irritates his knee.

ROCC-ING ON: OF Rocco Baldelli played in the final extended spring training game Wednesday in St. Petersburg, going 0-for-5, and said he feels good enough to join a minor-league team.

"This is probably the first time since the beginning of spring training where I actually felt that I was going to be coming back and playing," Baldelli told the Associated Press. Baldelli, 26, has been sidelined with a rare disorder that causes muscle fatigue in his legs.

MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham 1B/OF Chris Richard, who hit .359 with 23 RBIs in 26 games, and RHP Ryan Reid, who went 3-0 with five saves over 18 scoreless innings for Class A Vero and earned a promotion to Double-A Montgomery, were named the Rays' minor-league players of the month for May.

MISCELLANY: To activate RHP Troy Percival on Friday, the Rays have to drop a reliever, with Grant Balfour and Gary Glover (who has pink eye) the likely top candidates. … The June 18 game vs. the Cubs has been picked up by ESPN (but won't be shown in Tampa Bay and Chicago), the Rays' third national TV appearance of the season. … 3B Evan Longoria went 6-for-8 with two homers and five RBIs in his first homecoming series.

Drama, disappointment characterize Rays' road trip 06/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 13, 2008 9:31am]

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