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Duncan brings thunder to Rays

Shelley Duncan slaps hands with third-base coach Tom Foley after his tying homer.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Shelley Duncan slaps hands with third-base coach Tom Foley after his tying homer.

ST. PETERSBURG — Kelly Johnson hinted that when it comes to high-fives from Shelley Duncan, you'd better brace yourself.

Duncan, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound DH, doesn't hold back.

"He's bringing some thunder if he's going to celebrate," Johnson said, smiling. "You know it's coming."

Duncan, 33, had a reason to celebrate Wednesday night, sparking the Rays' 8-7 walkoff win with a tying three-run homer in the sixth inning. It was the kind of power the Rays envisioned when they signed the former Yankee to a minor-league deal in the offseason, believing he might provide insurance if DH Luke Scott got hurt.

Duncan, a late addition to the roster Sunday when Scott (calf strain) was placed on the disabled list, made his first Rays hit memorable, a 383-foot blast with two out and two on to tie it at 4.

"I think it was awesome seeing the whole team work together for that win," Duncan said. "It wasn't a one- or two-guy show. Playing against these guys, it was how they'd always beat us. And it was special being part of it."

Duncan, a right-handed hitter, said he didn't know if he'd get to bat during the sixth-inning rally. The Orioles had right-handed reliever Luis Ayala on the mound, and Duncan is expected to get starts against left-handers.

"To tell you the truth, during the past, they'd probably pinch-hit for me every time," he said.

But manager Joe Maddon, having seen Duncan lead the team with five spring homers, said if the matchup is good they'll leave him out there for righties. And Maddon knew if he pinch-hit left-hander Matt Joyce, the Orioles could counter with lefty Brian Matusz, who was warming up.

Maddon's faith was rewarded with Duncan's homer, which energized the entire building.

"It was instant energy," Johnson said. "Everybody in the crowd, everybody in the dugout, so it was really cool."

Duncan, a part-time player his first six seasons, appreciates every opportunity in Tampa Bay. He was getting ready to drive to Triple-A Durham on Sunday when he got the unexpected callup.

Duncan is excited for his father, former longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan, and brother Chris, a former Cardinals first baseman, to arrive at the Trop this weekend to watch him play.

And Maddon, who has known the Duncan family for years, believes Shelley will continue to make an impact with his bat.

"He looks really good, he looks comfortable," Maddon said. "He looks very 'hitterish' right now and he responded well today."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

Duncan brings thunder to Rays 04/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 12:13am]
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