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New York rainout is nice now for Tampa Bay Rays and could be big later

NEW YORK — For not playing Friday, the Rays sure seemed to come out ahead.

First, the decision to postpone the game because of all-day and expected to be all-evening rain was made early, shortly after 4 p.m. After sitting through delays in four of the final five games of their last road trip (some lengthy), the Rays welcomed the chance to get out of the ballpark early.

"We've been spending enough time in locker rooms without playing," manager Joe Maddon said. "To make the call right now is very big for us."

Second, the game likely won't be made up until the Rays return to Yankee Stadium in September — maybe as a Sept. 7 Labor Day-Night doubleheader or on the Sept. 10 mutual off day — when they presumably will have their frontline players healthy. Friday, they were going to be without 3B Evan Lon­goria again as well as SS Jason Bartlett and DH Pat Burrell.

The Rays will bump their starters back a day and keep them in order for this series, meaning LHP David Price starts today, RHP Matt Garza on Sunday and RHP Andy Sonnanstine on Monday. Maddon might flip-flop Jeff Niemann and James Shields for the first two games of the Angels series at home.

The Yankees made one change, skipping RHP A.J. Burnett. So they'll have LHP CC Sabathia going today, RHP Joba Chamberlain on Sunday and LHP Andy Pettitte on Monday.

LONGING TO RETURN: Lon­goria pronounced himself ready to return to the lineup today after going through extensive indoor drills to test his left hamstring, including running in a hallway while attached to a harness that head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield pulled on.

"I felt good," Longoria said. "If Joe and (executive VP Andrew Friedman) and whoever makes the decision as far as the lineup goes, if they feel and see my workouts and feel that I'm 100 percent, then I'll go."

Maddon, though, hadn't gotten a full report and sounded more cautious about returning Longoria, who hasn't played since leaving Tuesday's game, to the lineup.

"We'll see," he said. "The biggest thing for me is what the medical side says; if there's a risk to have it become worse or not. I'll just wait until (today) and hear what they have to say.''

UPTON'S UPSIDE: CF B.J. Upton's improvement at the plate — an eight-game hitting streak and a .450 homestand — is a product of a slight adjustment to his setup he and hitting coach Steve Henderson worked on. It allows him to get the bat head out quicker.

"You really have to be looking to see it, but it matters," Maddon said. "Minute adjustments with guys that are this good matter. Now all of a sudden, you are seeing the bat head out in front."

PAT TO BAT: Burrell, out since May 10 (neck strain), is expected to go on a minor-league rehab starting Monday and could be back in the lineup by the end of next week.

Maddon said Burrell, who is now taking batting practice, will probably play 3-4 minor-league games, likely with Double-A Montgomery on Monday and Tuesday. Then with the Biscuits off, he'd join Class A Charlotte on Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

"Once he's able to get out and get some at-bats, he'll be fine," Maddon said.

MORE MEDICAL: Maddon sounded pretty definitive that Bartlett (sprained left ankle) will not be ready when eligible to return Wednesday, "but I don't think it should be much further along than that."

LHP Scott Kazmir turned out to be a quick healer as the Rays say the right quads strain that landed him on the DL on May 22 is better but now they're "working on getting him back comfortable with his delivery." Though Kazmir is progressing well, Maddon said, "it's going to take a little bit more time," and Kazmir likely will need to make one or two rehab starts.

MISCELLANY: Five Stone Crabs were selected for the advanced Class A Florida State League All-Star Game: pitchers Darin Downs and Matt Gorgen, INFs Cody Cipriano and Greg Sexton, and C Nevin Ashley. … RHP Calvin Medlock was promoted from Montgomery to Triple-A Durham.

New York rainout is nice now for Tampa Bay Rays and could be big later 06/05/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 6, 2009 6:24am]

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