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Knowing is only half the battle for Tampa Bay Rays against Carl Crawford

CHICAGO — No matter how they look at it, seeing Carl Crawford standing in leftfield tonight in Boston's home whites will be a bit odd for the Rays.

But having seen him up close during his nine seasons with them, the Rays should figure to have some type of advantage as they meet, after four spring exhibitions, for the first time when it matters.

Knowing what to do won't mean anything, however, manager Joe Maddon said, if the Rays can't do it right.

"You can always set up the best game plan in the world, but then execution is a big part of that also," Maddon said. "We can think that he thinks that we think all we want to. But at the end of the day, we have to pitch it the right way. We have to be in the right spots on defense, and we have to do the right things when he's on base."

They will have their ideas, seeking to extend Crawford's slow start (.132, 5-for-38) at the beginning of his seven-year, $142 million deal.

"Carl, conversationally with me in the past, knows how I think and what I think about him, so he knows all that," Maddon said. "So that ought to be interesting."

Crawford said — well, actually wrote in his ESPNBoston.com diary — that he was glad to face the Rays in the spring so he had an idea what they would try to do to him. Before Sunday's game with the Yankees, he downplayed any significance to the first regular-season meeting.

"I got that stuff out of the way in spring training," he said. "It's just a game and a game we need to win. It'll be good to see those guys, but it's not going to be anything beyond that. I'm used to it now."

The Rays also could face former teammate Dan Wheeler, who is now in Boston's bullpen.

JOHNNY BE BAD: New Rays LF Johnny Damon has been back to Boston a dozen times since leaving the Red Sox a year after playing a key role on the 2004 reverse-the-curse championship team to sign with the Yankees, and he knows the reaction tonight will be the same as always.

"Oh, I get booed," he said. "They absolutely despise me. I just have to say, 'You're welcome for '04, you're welcome for making it fun again over there.' "

Damon might actually be booed louder because Manny Ramirez, who is even less "popular" in Boston, won't be with him. Still, Damon enjoys it.

"Boston's always going to be a special place for me," he said. "What we were able to accomplish there and everything was all great. I was really looking forward to going back there with Manny. But things happen in this game, and you have to make adjustments."

FELIPE'S FLIP: Maddon had strong words about INF Felipe Lopez flipping his bat toward the mound after homering Saturday, though Lopez claimed it was unintentional.

"That's not who we are. That's not how we play," Maddon said. "I'm not into the end zone demonstration that much. I think we've really morphed into this, I believe, very classy group over the last several years, and I want to maintain that kind of thought about us. I don't even want to say image — you think about the Rays, you think these guys handle themselves in a certain way."

Maddon was pleased to hear Lopez called White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to apologize, and Maddon also planned to speak to Guillen as well as Lopez. Lopez did not play Sunday. The teams meet at the Trop next week.

DeJa VU: Sunday's controversial call — in which Dan Johnson was called safe then out at first — was the second to go against the Rays in Chicago. In 2008, with two of the same umpires, Doug Eddings and Dana DeMuth involved, an interference call on 3B Willy Aybar against Sox C A.J. Pierzynski led to Chicago scoring the winning run.

MISCELLANY: Maddon raved about RHP Andy Sonnanstine, who worked the final 51/3 innings in relief of Jeff Niemann, saving the rest of the bullpen. … C Kelly Shoppach threw out two Sox at second, ending the Rays' 0-for-11 streak against basestealers. … Maddon's ejection was his 17th. … RF Matt Joyce, back in the lineup after a day off, had two hits, one more than in his first seven games.

Knowing is only half the battle for Tampa Bay Rays against Carl Crawford 04/10/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 11, 2011 4:47pm]
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