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Postponement of season opener no big deal to Tampa Bay Rays starter Shields

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria runs from the visitors’ indoor batting cage to the clubhouse after the rain started.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria runs from the visitors’ indoor batting cage to the clubhouse after the rain started.

BOSTON — RHP James Shields was headed for the Starbucks in the lobby of the team hotel around 9:30 Monday morning when manager Joe Maddon, cautiously, approached his extremely focused starter with the news that the season opener had been postponed.

"I just told him to turn it off, because you know how he is," Maddon said. "We wanted to give him the word far enough in advance, and we did. He'll be fine. There's no concern with him."

As much as Shields was geared for Monday, he said the extra day's rest won't affect his preparation or his performance. He'll go have another nice dinner (it was kobe steak on Sunday) and get another good night's rest.

"Just the anxiousness, just being anxious to start the season off," he said. "We're going to watch all the other teams play tonight, and we're going to be sitting in the hotel. There's no real disadvantage or anything.

"I prepare when I wake up in the morning anyway, so I'm as ready as I can be. Hopefully we'll get it in (today) and start the season off right."

MATT'S MOMENT: OF Matt Joyce is one of five Rays on an opening-day roster for the first time, joining Grant Balfour, Evan Longoria, Joe Nelson and Jeff Niemann.

And getting to do so with his new, and hometown, team as a starter, and on his first-ever trip to Fenway Park, makes it even more thrilling. "That's special," Joyce said. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime. It's what every kid dreams of, starting opening day in centerfield, playing on an American League champion team, and especially opening at Fenway, as much history as there is here."

RED SOX MYSTIQUE: The Rays were told they could have the field for batting practice after the Red Sox worked out Monday morning.

And it just so happened that by the time the Sox got done and the Rays got all their equipment and players on the field, the rain started to fall, forcing the Rays to cut it short after only two hitters, scramble off the field and relocate to the indoor cages.

"I had a feeling that was going to happen," hitting coach Steve Henderson said. "They always do stuff like that here. … It's always something when you come here. It's different, let's put it like that. They got their hitting in, and we didn't get ours."

ROCCO REUNION: Having faced his ex-mates in spring training, ex-Ray/new-Red Sox Rocco Baldelli said it will be "definitely different" but not too odd playing against them this week, with a likely start in rightfield on Wednesday.

But the April 30-May 3 series in St. Pete might be a bigger deal. "I think going down to the Trop will be definitely different for me the first time we head down there," he said.

HOME BOY: The rainout cost RHP Dan Wheeler his mom's special grilled chicken dinner. Wheeler planned to go home to Warwick, R.I., after Monday's game and spend today's scheduled off day with his parents and his sister's new baby, Brady. "It would have been nice to spend a day-and-a-half there," he said.

MISCELLANY: FSN will show today's game, with a pregame show at 3:30. … There will be a WDAE Watch Party at Lee Roy Selmon's across from International Plaza in Tampa. … Nos. 4-5 starters RHPs Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Niemann rejoined the team after working out in Port Charlotte on Sunday. … OF Carl Crawford is the only remaining player from the 2003 opening-day roster, when the Rays last opened against Boston.

Postponement of season opener no big deal to Tampa Bay Rays starter Shields 04/06/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 8:17am]
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