ST. PETERSBURG — When RHP Matt Garza was pulled in the fifth, one out from qualifying for a victory, he wasn't upset.
He was understanding.
Garza, pitching on three days' rest, said he didn't have his best stuff. So when there were two runners on and David Ortiz (who had homered twice off him) coming to the plate, Garza said it was the "right move" for manager Joe Maddon to insert hard-throwing RHP Grant Balfour.
Balfour got Ortiz to fly out to center to end the threat.
"It was the right move at the right time because Balfour had better stuff and was able to attack him," Garza said. "I'm never going to question Joe. That's his job."
To Maddon, the decision was "relatively simple."
"I could just see he wasn't comfortable. … To risk a game at that point to get him a win, makes no sense whatsoever."
PERCY BACK? Closer Troy Percival had the first of three scheduled epidural injections to his lower back Tuesday, with the anesthetics making him so "loopy" he had to stay home and watch the game on TV (RHP Dan Wheeler got the last out). With the shots coming in six-day intervals, Percival was unavailable Wednesday but could be ready to go "full throttle" today through Monday before the next injection. Percival, who is going to need back surgery in the offseason, said he feels "100 times better" and hopes the shots will get him through a playoff run.
"Anything to finish this out and pitch to back to where I was at early in the year," said Percival, who has had three DL stints.
HE'S BAAAACK: OF Delmon Young returns tonight, saying he's not surprised to see his ex-teammates doing well. "They had the players always, and now they fixed up their bullpen, and they've got the second-best ERA in the league," Young told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "So with that offense they had last year, and the pitching this year, it was going to turn around."
Young said there's nothing special about his first appearance at the Trop since the offseason trade that sent him and INF Brendan Harris to the Twins for SS Jason Bartlett and RHP Matt Garza. Garza said it'd be great to see some old friends but, "It's going to be even better to try to celebrate on them."
ON SCHEDULE: The Rays will see the AL East championship banner raised either April 6 when they open the 2009 season at Boston or when they play their home opener April 13 against the Yankees. The schedule, released Wednesday, includes interleague visits by the Nationals and Phillies, trips to play the Mets and Rockies and the usual home-and-home series with the Marlins.
SWITCH IT UP: When switch-hitters Fernando Perez and Willy Aybar homered against RHP Tim Wakefield, it was the first time in divisional play (since 1969) that two switch-hitters on a team homered in the same game vs. a RHP while batting right-handed, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark.
SCOREBOARD WATCHING: There was some question if Tuesday's score should have been 2-1 or 3-1 because Dioner Navarro's bases-loaded hit hopped over the outfield wall. Because he never made it to second (thanks to his celebrating teammates), it was ruled a single and scored one run rather than a ground-rule double that would have scored two.
MISCELLANY: Jami Kennedy, widow of former Rays pitcher Joe Kennedy, will throw out the first pitch Sunday, accompanied by son Kaige. … Maddon said CF B.J. Upton, who missed his eighth game with a strained left quadriceps, is getting closer to returning. … Wednesday's game marked the Rays' sixth sellout of the season, third against the Red Sox. … More than 15,000 tickets remain for tonight's game and about 10,000 for Friday and Saturday's nationally televised games.
Staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.