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Rays alter rotation

BOSTON — The Rays had their reasons — three, actually — for altering their pitching rotation by flip-flopping James Shields and Matt Garza.

Whether there are some residual benefits could be clear in a few weeks.

Taking advantage of today's off day, the Rays now will have Garza open their final series at Yankee Stadium on Friday, his regular fifth day, and moved Shields back to pitch Saturday.

Officially, manager Joe Maddon said, "There's a three-pronged reason to it:" to split up Garza and Edwin Jackson, who are "very similar guys;" Shields, who tends to pitch deep into games, is in line to start the first game of the Sept. 23 doubleheader at Baltimore to potentially lessen the workload on the bullpen; and give Shields, who leads the team at 1922/3 innings, an extra day's rest.

Shields, who worked 215 innings last season (and was shut down for his final two starts) said he had no reason to need extra rest.

"I don't," he said. "I feel good. It's just a decision they're making right now."

Garza said much the same: "I just do what they tell me."

Maddon insisted there was no more to it. "It has nothing to do with the postseason," he said. "We'll worry about that when it gets to that point."

But still …

In the new order, Shields would be in line to pitch the regular-season finale in Detroit on Sept. 28. If that game didn't matter, he'd just happen to be available for a playoff opener a few days later with Scott Kazmir seemingly in line for a second game.

Another byproduct is Shields won't pitch next week against the Red Sox, against whom he is 2-4 with a 5.23 ERA in eight career games and brawled with in his June 5 start.

"I miss Boston, unfortunately," he said. "I wish I could have faced them."

Garza will start the series finale against the Red Sox: "Good thing for me, bad thing for them."

But Garza won't get to face his ex-Twins teammates in the following four-game series: "Maybe we'll see them in the postseason."

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price, named USA Today's minor-league player of the year on Wednesday, sounds like a good bet to start the second game of the doubleheader. Maddon said they hadn't made a decision but noted the Orioles "have a lot of left-handed guys that are pretty good."

RIGGANS DONE?: Backup C Shawn Riggans' season could be over after right knee surgery Wednesday in St. Petersburg because of an infected bursa sac. "It really needed a lot of attending to quickly so that it would not become more infected, which could have become more serious," Maddon said.

Riggans, hobbled since Sunday, could be out four weeks.

Michel Hernandez, who was called up from Triple A on Tuesday, will become the primary backup and could get his first start Sunday. He has five games of major-league experience, all in 2003 with the Yankees.

MORE MEDICAL: CF B.J. Upton (strained left quads) felt better, but Maddon said he likely won't start Friday and a weekend return was "possible." … 3B Evan Longoria said his previously fractured right wrist felt "great" after taking 30 swings at pitches thrown from 45 feet by head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. He plans to take a full batting practice Friday with hopes of returning to the lineup then or the next day.

BULLS RUN: Triple-A Durham now trails Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) 2-0 in the best-of-five International League final after losing 1-0 in 13 innings. Mitch Talbot allowed three hits in eight innings for the Bulls. Jeff Niemann starts Game 3 tonight in Durham.

MISCELLANY: After today's off day, the Rays play 18 games over the final 17 days of the season. … The Rays through Tuesday were a major-league best 47-22 in games decided by one or two runs.

Rays alter rotation 09/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 2:15pm]
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